Polk Schools and Polk State team up to battle teacher shortage

DAVENPORT, Fla. — Year after year, schools are in desperate need of fulfilling their instructing staff on time.

Polk County Schools is still looking to fill 135 teacher spots.

And the Florida Department of Education reports that many positions held, are by teachers who do not have the correct certification for the subject they are teaching. 

But Polk County School District and Polk State College have come up with an idea to get the students off and into college early, while growing home-grown teachers of their own. 

It’s called the ELITE Program or Establishing Leaders in Teacher Education. 

“Hopefully we can get them back in the end,” Steven Ely, the principal at Ridge Community High says.

He says the program will eventually bring high school level teachers back to his school. 

Monday, the ELITE program was signed into effect.

Polk State announced it will offer free tuition to Polk high school seniors.

Students interested in teaching will have the opportunity to start their Associate's Degree towards teaching, and then when they finish their Bachelor’s Degree in Early Education from the same college, they will be ready for recruitment back into the Polk School system. 

“You’ll pretty much be on the fast track to go to college,” Lluzbeira Moran, a Ridge Community High School senior said.

She says the program came a little too late for her to take advantage of, but she’s glad others will have the opportunity.

“It could have been a lot of money that I saved and a lot of time that I saved,” she said.

The best thing, according to Polk Schools, is students will be able to graduate debt free, and at a much younger age to get their careers started.

“20 years old and you have a degree and you’re working and raising a family, that’s huge,” Ely said.

If you are interested in teaching for Polk County Schools, apply here.

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