When Stephanie Emmons was hired as Fleming County’s high school principal in July 2015, she faced firsthand the problem of teacher shortages in Kentucky.
“I realized there was a problem when I had (job) postings and had no applicants,” Emmons said.
To fill the school’s five certified teaching positions, Emmons said she had to call surrounding districts with the same openings to get phone numbers of applicants they did not hire. She eventually made hires for all five positions – including an English teacher position that was filled right before school started – but the experience “gave me some insight to how dire the situation was to getting candidates to apply,” she said.
Fleming County High School Principal Stephanie Emmons, right, talks with new Spanish teacher Carmen Pinilla. Emmons hired 15 new teachers for the new school year.
“So this year I’ve been very proactive so that we didn’t run into the same situation again this summer,” Emmons said in June.
Emmons said she reached out to several universities in her area and made presentations to their graduates in December and again in April, before she even had openings to fill.
“Last year we were just begging for candidates to even apply and this year we’re able to select from multiple candidates for all of our positions,” she said. “We really think proactiveness has really helped us get the cream of the crop of the type of teachers we want that fit into our climate and our culture.
“I always take a team of teachers (when she visits universities) because I can get up there as the principal of Fleming County High School and speak, but I think what’s really powerful is they get to talk to my teachers who are living it and working it every day,” Emmons said.
Fleming County High School, which is a priority school, had 15 vacancies to fill this summer.
“What’s great is I had multiple people to choose from and I was able to choose the best candidate so I wasn’t just having to settle for who applied and taking them,” she said.
Emmons, who has an undergraduate degree in communications, also has turned to social media to get the word out about her district’s vacancies and why educators would want to teach there.
“It’s about selling what your school has to offer because in the grand scheme of things we’re all public education institutes,” she said. “We all teach very similar content areas, but it’s how you set your school apart from all the other high schools in the state of Kentucky.
“It’s all about getting your school’s name out there, marketing it in a way that makes people say ‘I want to be a part of this.’ That’s our goal.”