By Anastasios Koularmanis
The Greek teacher shortage is increasing in a majority of our parish schools, with far more teachers retiring then entering our school system. This disparity has been widening over the past few years and it seems to be a growing concern for many Greek American communities throughout the country.
Finding qualified Greek language teachers has always been the most important challenge our schools have faced. We can have the best Greek language programs in the county but if we don’t have effective teachers, then we will not get families to enroll their children in our schools and programs.
Prior to the pandemic era, we witnessed a tremendous decrease in the number of teachers coming from Greece. For many schools, the teacher exchange program served not only as a pipeline for finding teachers, it was also an economic lifeline since these teachers were paid for by the Greek government. An increase in the cost of living has deterred any interested candidate from applying to open vacancies in the United States and other European countries.
Unfortunately, this shortage will continue to grow even more unless we find a permanent solution. We need to understand that our Greek-American teachers, and the teachers that come from Greece play an important role in our schools. Therefore, we need to make sure that the public, the Greek government and all of our stakeholders are aware of the significant job they do and the important contributions they make to the children they teach.
In the meantime, communities must consider increasing teacher pay. As a former administrator in a Greek American school myself, I can attest to the fact that a big reason many teachers do not choose to work for our schools is money. There’s no denying that compensation can and does influence career choices. Secondly, we can begin to sponsor and pay for our own Greek teachers from Greece and Cyprus instead of depending on others. Lastly, we need to work together to ensure that our schools and programs remain open.
It goes without saying that no one solution will immediately fix our teacher shortages and the various other obstacles we are facing. It will take a significant investment of time, money, and talent. However, if we work together, and if problems are addressed as they arise, we could help ensure that all of our schools, and programs continue to offer to all children around the country our Greek language, Greek culture, and Greek Orthodox faith.