KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) The Killeen ISD, 2,500 of whose students take English as Second Language or ESL classes, is in need of bilingual teachers, and as more students for whom English isn’t the primary language enroll, the shortage becomes more of a problem.
KISD has nine bilingual and ESL positions open, most of them at the elementary level.
In Texas, if elementary classes have more than 22 students, a class size waiver has to be requested from the state.
With its bilingual teacher shortage, KISD has had to file for seven waivers.
Some classes are listed as having as many as 28 students.
KISD says the class size problem is partly the result of military students transferring during the year, but mainly because there are simply not enough bilingual people going for teaching jobs.
The district has added recruitment incentives to make the career choice more appealing.
"We’ll hire them right away,” KISD spokesperson Terry Abbott said.
“We will pay them $5,500 that first year, above and beyond the starting salary that we pay at $47,000 for a first-year teacher, so I would say to kids who are getting ready to come out of college and who are bilingual and have a teaching certificate, come to us and you'll make great money that first year especially. "
Fourth grade is the highest grade level for which the district has had to request a waiver.
Last year at that level, about 60 percent of students passed the English and Spanish STAAR tests.
One educator wants districts everywhere to recognize the effect this shortage could be having on students who are already struggling to learn English as a second language.
“It's a challenge because you have too many kids in one classroom to service them all,” says Gladys Fidueroa of the Killeen Educators Association.
She has been a bilingual teacher for nearly twenty years and says bilingual teachers are required to give lessons in both languages.
They often have to split the students into small groups, and it’s too difficult to teach specialized lessons to large classes.
Fidueroa says teaching materials are rarely made available in both languages.
“I have friends that have chosen not to teach bilingual because of the amount of work we have to do- translating materials for the kids, materials for the parents. The amount of paperwork we have to do is double than the regular classes,” she adds.
On top of the extra work, she says bilingual teachers also have to handle behavioral problems and cultural barriers that slow learning.