LEWISBURG, WV (WVNS) — West Virginia’s teacher shortage is more than just a number — it’s a daily challenge school districts face to keep schools fully staffed. Greenbrier County Schools is taking new steps to address the ongoing shortage.

“It is a huge challenge, we recruit as often as possible, we use alternative certification routes to fill positions, but now we are really excited about Grow Your Own or Jumpstart into teaching that potentially we could bring our own students back to our county and they can fill our vacancies,” Doug Clemons, Associate Superintendent and Director of Human Resources, said.

Clemons said there is an estimated vacancy of 1,200 teachers statewide and that could increase by 300 in 2023. The Grow Your Own initiative aims to stop that at the source — providing incentive for students to become teachers in their alma mater.

Students can earn up to 24 credits for a teaching degree before enrolling in college and eventually co-teach in the county with opportunities for salary and benefits. From there, Clemons said the goal is to maintain a consistent influx of new teachers.

“Most students do go to college open to what they may want to pursue, but if we send them there with a quarter of it done and bring them back their senior year and pay them a salary, we think that could keep them in teaching, we hope,” Clemons said.

The program will be available in high schools beginning in September, offering two courses next year and four courses in 2024. Clemons said the state plans to offer financial assistance for some of the courses and the PRAXIS test.