Florence School District One hires student-teachers to fill teacher vacancies

Florence County School District student teachers

FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - To help combat the current statewide teacher shortage and retention crisis, Florence School District One is hiring student-teachers as the main teachers in some of its classrooms.

The students haven’t received their college diplomas or teaching certificate yet, but are finishing their last semester.

Instead of the traditional way where a student is being supervised by a certified teacher, the student is the one teaching the classroom through an Internship Certificate program.

The school district hired seven student-teachers. Six are from Francis Marion University. One is from Anderson University.

Nathaniel Marshall, director of human resources, said the students have completed the state exams, all required coursework and come highly recommended by their universities.

"I think some people may be worried that we’re just using anybody, but it really is a high caliber student-teacher that we’re using,” Marshall said.

Lakisha Pigatt is one of the them. She attends FMU and has a background in childcare. On Tuesday, Pigatt spent the day working on getting her kindergarten classroom ready for the first of school.

"We come in and we're doing training every day," she said. "It is totally different than traditional training because I am in here as the lead person, but I've had those experiences before."

Marshall said the district had more than 200 teacher vacancies leading up the this school year.

Instead of hiring long-term substitutes or creating larger class sizes to fill some of the spots, he said the district felt this route was the best way.

"This is a way that we could really be strategic in looking at where do we have those needs, how best can we fill those needs and still meet the needs of our students in Florence One," he said.

Marshall said the student-teachers won’t have to fend for themselves. Pigatt has a mentor teacher next door and two assistants to help ease the nerves.

“Like yesterday, I probably went home feeling like, ‘Help me please,’ but eventually, having those positive people coming back and telling me this is good and not only is it good, it’s a challenge,” she said.

Marshall said the goal is for the students to remain working within the district once they become certified.

“We want them to be so blown away by the building and the support they’re receiving in Florence One that they’re going to stay so we really think this is going to help with our retention and not lose teachers to other districts,” Marshall said.

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