- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Cindy Soell is always on the lookout for potential teachers. She buttonholes shoppers and goes online in search of candidates.
"I can't just go in the Orange Bowl with a plane and a sign, 'Be a teacher,'" said Miss Soell, who leads the charge for teacher recruitment in Miami-Dade County, Florida's largest school district with 380,000 students.
A booming population and a voter-approved initiative to cap class sizes have made teachers, already in short supply across the country, an even hotter commodity across Florida.
The Education Department says the nation's public schools will need to hire 2 million teachers over the next decade as the bulk of the teaching force nears retirement and dissatisfied teachers leave the profession.
Estimates put Florida's need at 25,000 new teachers by next fall alone 16,000 to handle student growth and another 9,000 to tackle class-size reduction.
Demographics foretell a long-range hiring need: The state has 154,000 teachers and personnel for its 2.45 million students, but nearly one-third of the teachers are between the ages of 50 and 59 and nearly 60 percent are older than 40.
A new amendment on class sizes, which will be phased in through 2010, caps classes at 18 students in kindergarten through third grade, 22 in fourth through eighth grade and 25 in high school. An average Florida classroom now holds 23 students through fifth grade and 26 in middle and high school.
Education programs at state universities will provide only about one-fourth of the demand, requiring a boost in out-of-state recruiting and alternative certification for non-education majors and those entering the field from other careers.
Florida will begin a marketing campaign next year to recruit out-of-state teachers, said Ava Byrne, chief of the state Department of Education's bureau of educator recruitment and professional development.
Using public service announcements and Internet pop-ups, the state will market its sun-splashed climate, attractions and family-oriented living to lure teachers away from other states such as Michigan and Montana.
"We're going to be looking at northern states that have an overabundance and an oversupply of teachers," Miss Byrne said.
In Miami, Miss Soell once found herself talking to a fellow shopper who vowed he "would never be a teacher." She gave him her business card and e-mail address and received a message from him a few months later. The man now teaches social science at a Miami-area middle school.
With the demand for men in teaching, Miss Soell makes an annual pilgrimage to the University of Miami and talks to football players.
She receives about 50 e-mail messages a day from prospective teachers and tries to make a connection with potential hires that can help provide stability in later years.
"The Internet and the e-mail has made our approach more intimate," said Miss Soell, who by June will have recruited some 2,300 teachers for the next school year.
With an average annual teacher salary of $38,719, Florida ranks 31st nationally, the National Education Association said. Among states similar in size, New York averages $53,081, Illinois pays about $50,000 and Pennsylvania averages $50,599.

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