A shortage of substitute teachers has South County schools reaching out to seniors, hoping to entice them back into the classroom.
Offering flexible schedules and wages, as well as bonuses, schools are hoping to attract hundreds of new teachers who have that rare commodity not taught in any textbook: real life experience in the workforce.
Hillsborough County Schools are looking to fill 2,000 substitute teacher positions this fall but the need is especially acute in South County, one of the fastest growing areas in the county.
Mark Neckes, 71, a Sun City resident, has been teaching in Hillsborough County Schools for two years.
“It’s been a sheer joy,” he said. “I’ve taught at two high schools in the Sun City [Center] area, Lennard and East Bay.”
Neckes gravitates toward teaching history and marketing. “However, I teach any class they want me to.”
A retired teacher with 40 years’ experience, he spent 10 years teaching in high school and 30 at a university. He currently works 12 to 20 hours a week in local schools.
He led a seminar on the benefits on teaching in local schools last month at the Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce.
“I would definitely recommend [teaching],” Neckes said. “It is such a marvelous way, especially for seniors, to work part time with a flexible schedule. Especially if you only want to work one day per week, which is perfectly appropriate and, if you travel, it certainly works well.”
Neckes said, “For a senior who has expertise on the educational level but also business expertise and knows about real-life situations, it’s important because the kids really need to hear and learn about real-life situations. Seniors bring the years of their knowledge and of their environment where they live and the educational background — that is invaluable to the student.”
What does the senior get out of it?
“The senior gets an infusion of young blood into their systems. It makes them feel young again,” said Neckes, who also serves as a trainer for incoming substitute teachers.
Kelly Educational Staffing, which is helping county schools fill the vacant substitute spots, is targeting areas of the county where the need for substitutes is particularly acute.
“We target areas that have high absences,” said Janelle Weaver, an area manager with Kelly. “We make sure that we do recruiting within the areas with the most needs and this is what led us to working with the Chamber of Commerce.”
The salary varies based on one’s educational degree. Someone with an associate’s degree earns $8.42 an hour and the salary goes up based on a BA or certifications, and if they work at a “Title One” school. Substitutes can earn up to $12.25 an hour.
“We need substitutes at any age, but we find that seniors offer the most value to the students because of their knowledge and experience,” Weaver said.
For more information on the program, call Kelly Educational Staffing office in Tampa at 813-518-5999 and select option number 4. School starts Tuesday, Aug. 25. Kelly will hold seminars for prospective teachers at its office, 5550 W. Idlewild Ave. in Tampa, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 19, 26 and 27. The schedule is subject to change; call 813-518-5999 to confirm and register.