By Interim Superintendent Van Ayres

As we push forward with filling our remaining teacher vacancies for Hillsborough County Public Schools’ (HCPS) 2023-24 school year, HCPS has a laser focus on specific positions: Exceptional student education, or ESE, teachers. HCPS serves over 30,000 students with disabilities, who receive instruction with specialized support provided by both general education and special education teachers. But for many students with disabilities, success in the classroom depends on appropriate adaptations, accommodations and modifications made to the instruction and any other classroom activities.

Right now, HCPS is actively recruiting new ESE teachers as we strive to fill 100 positions. These include students with intellectual, learning and physical challenges, speech and language difficulties as well as hearing and/or visual impairments, along with students with autism.

“These are our students who need some of the most support, and they need to have services as a part of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and it’s important that they have high-quality instructors to help them meet their goals,” said Shannon Lesperance, ESE assistant director for instructional programs.

Thanks to our STEP program, there is an accelerated route in which a background in education isn’t necessary. STEP is a great opportunity for those who always thought they might want to be a teacher. We’re looking for individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher and a growth mindset who can always find ways to help our students find success.

“It’s really about having a guide for these prospective teachers every step of the way to help you both in your preparation and practice, which leads to a professional certificate,” said Scott Richman, the district’s supervisor of professional development.

Those who enroll in the program, meet the requirements and complete three or more years of teaching will receive up front a 50 percent discount off the program value of $900. In addition, benefits include competitive starting salaries, vacation time and school breaks, medical plus basic life insurance and participation in the Florida Retirement System, professional development and training at no cost, as well as opportunities for career advancement.

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