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Michelle Cardenas has taught at Del Valle ISD for nearly two decades, but the 2021-22 school year pushed her to her limit — her district had dozens of teacher vacancies at the end of May.
That left Cardenas, a bilingual pre-K teacher at Hillcrest Elementary School in South Austin, overseeing two classes at once with 30 students total. She moved back and forth between the rooms, relied on aides to supervise her 4- and 5-year-old students and even used video calls to simultaneously teach both classes. If Cardenas has to do it again, she said, “I’d probably walk out the door.”
Educators across Texas have struggled through a teacher shortage, and many say the problem is exacerbated by low pay, political debates over curriculum and declining respect for the profession — not to mention a pandemic that has altered the way children behave and learn. This school year, the district said Cardenas’ school is 95% staffed thanks to job fairs and a $4,000 pay raise for new teachers.
But Cardenas still has doubts and fears. Her year started with a glimmer of hope when the school hired a second bilingual pre-K teacher, relieving some of her workload. But that teacher was quickly transferred due to staff shortages at another school. As more bilingual students were referred to Cardenas' class, it grew from five to 18 children, approaching the state limit of 22 students per class for pre-K through 4th grade.
“I hope I’m not in the same boat as I was last year,” Cardenas said.
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