Rural schools struggle to recruit, keep teachers

By Erika Alvero

THE JOURNAL

Nyibol Bior, an overworked Longmont teacher, applied last April to the rural Dolores School District hoping for a fresh start. But she balked when a job offer as a special education teacher for the district meant a pay cut and moving to a small town where Bior, a South Sudanese refugee, would stand out.

She turned down the job. But then she changed her mind.

“I didn’t go into teaching thinking I was going to make a lot of money,” she said. “I just want to make a difference.”

Bior’s struggle is one shared by many teachers in Colorado, where salaries are among the lowest in the nation and have contributed to a chronic teacher shortage that has forced schools to cut subjects, make classes bigger and never fill some positions. But teacher shortages and low salaries have particularly plagued rural districts like Dolores, where schools can’t attract teachers to remote areas without competitive pay.

Bior took a pay cut in exchange for a school where she feels appreciated. But she pays for it by picking up extra coaching and teaching jobs to augment her low salary.

“I’m having to work extra to make ends meet,” Bior said.

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