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Calling all new math teachers: Shelby County Schools wants to give you $5,000

A shortage of high school math teachers in Memphis has Shelby County Schools willing to award a $5,000 signing bonus to those hired after Aug. 15.

The district began its school year Aug. 8 short of about 100 full-time teachers. At the time, leaders didn’t disclose the specifics, but a subsequent Facebook announcement did.


Three days after publication, the Facebook post had received more than 200 shares and 30 comments.

Some commenters were less than thrilled, expressing frustration that the signing bonus was going only to new math teachers.

“This (is) a generous signing bonus,” wrote Debora Tiemann Tolliver, a fifth-grade math and science teacher with the school system. “Why doesn’t the district pay newly hired teachers for their masters degrees if they earned them before being hired by SCS? That might entice people to apply.”

Damien Cull asked, “How about all the teachers that have stayed and been through it thick and then? Maybe a raise or thank you bonus…. Gift card? Something ?? Teachers starting to forget what a raise is…”

Shelby County Schools’ budget for this school year includes a 3 percent raise for teachers who rated 3, 4 and 5 on a scale of 1 to 5 on their teacher evaluations. (See Chalkbeat’s explainer on why the disbursement of Tennessee’s two-year investment in teacher raises can vary from district to district.)

Across Tennessee, math teachers in grades 7-12 are in short supply. The state has been listed in need of math teachers for four straight years by a U.S. Department of Education report on teacher shortage areas.

Shelby County Schools needs to hire seven more high school math teachers, communications chief Natalia Powers said Monday.

“Math is (the) primary discipline essential to students’ academic growth, specifically in high school grades. We must work aggressively to ensure we can recruit the best and brightest for our students,” Powers said.

She added that changes in state testing standards for math teachers has contributed to the smaller pool statewide.

“We implemented this signing bonus to ensure we are a competitive option for high school math teachers still seeking roles,” Powers said.


Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include details from district communications chief Natalia Powers about why Shelby County Schools is offering a signing bonus for high school math teachers.