CNY Teacher Shortage is Bringing Back Retired Educators CNY Teacher Shortage is Bringing Back Retired Educators

Retired Teachers Return Amidst Central NY's Teaching Crisis.

ROME, N.Y. (NCC News)- Central New York has been grappling with a severe shortage of teachers, a crisis exacerbated by the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The need has become so dire that retired teachers, like Barbara Vacca, are coming back to the classroom to fill the gaps. Vacca retired in 2021 after teaching first grade for 32 years. Her retirement was a result of COVID-19’s impact on education.

“Parents were expecting more from us than they were putting out, which was very frustrating to me,” said Vacca. “I was like, ‘I don’t think I can do this for ten more years.’”

When the principal of Rome Catholic School called Vacca and asked her to be a substitute, she said yes. However, what was supposed to be a temporary position, has turned into a permanent one until the end of the year. Vacca is not the only teacher who was unexpectedly put on salary until June, there are several others, including the principal.

The outside of Rome Catholic School
Rome Catholic School
© 2024 Reese Gaudelli

Her return to the classroom highlights more than just a shortage of staffing. Vacca pointed out the lack of resources available when she first got to Rome Catholic School.

“I had to scrounge for books. When I walked in there were no books in here,” said Vacca.

Vacca’s experience reflects broader issues within the education system, including a loss of trust and respect from higher-ups. She feels that teachers no longer have the ability to run the classroom the way they want to. Nicole Capsello, President of the Syracuse Teachers Association shares the same feelings. She explains that 30% of time spent in the classroom is for testing rather than teaching. This and other punitive measures are what prevent teachers from having autonomy.

“The amount of time we spend testing our students on things that are not relevant to being a successful human being in society is huge,” said Capsello.

Both Vacca and Capsello agree that it is essential that teachers are trusted to lead their classrooms in a way that best suits their students’ needs. They also emphasized the need to regain respect from superiors, parents, and students alike.

Despite these challenges, Vacca still has hope for the future. She is certain that this issue will get better.

“It’s a cycle,” said Vacca. “The lack of money, the lack of respect, it will all come back.”
One thing that is for certain, is Vacca’s love for children. The opportunity to work with students is what brought her back.

“That’s the best thing about education in its entirety. I got to share and watch them learn to love learning,” said Vacca.

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