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Only Real Teachers Need Apply: Hawaii State Department of Education

The average starting teacher salary in Hawaii in 2012-2013 was $41,027, just above the US average. However, Hawaii has the highest cost of living.
Image: Mark Aoki
Mark Aoki, 16, a junior at Roosevelt High School, sits on campus grounds after school Friday, Oct 16, 2009. Aoki is a representative of the Honolulu district for the Hawaii State Student Council and is looking forward to having the extra days off due to the furlough of his school teachers. But he knows it could have a detrimental effect on his education. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)Eugene Tanner / AP

After an Associated Press article last month about Hawaii’s growing teacher shortage and recent teacher recruitment efforts on the mainland, followed by other articles and social media posts excitedly imagining the fun of being paid to teach in paradise, the Hawaii State Department of Education has been inundated with thousands of teacher applications and inquiries from around the world, the agency said.

With the Associated Press reporting that there may be as many as 1600 vacancies next school year, that would seem to be a positive. However, most of the applications and inquiries have not been coming from qualified teachers or teachers authorized to work in the United States, and they are getting in the way of serious applications, according to the department.

Hawaii State Department of Education

"The Hawaii State Department of Education holds recruitment drives in numerous states every year to find teachers from across the country who are qualified to work in Hawaii,” Donalyn Dela Cruz, Hawaii State Department of Education spokesperson, told NBC News. “Following a recent drive in April, false reporting and inaccurate blogging on social media led to a major influx of applications from people who just want to move to Hawaii. Many of these inquiries came from individuals who are not interested in teaching, but who just want to move to Hawaii under the false impression that the Department will pay for people to move here to live and work.”

The Hawaii State Department of Education is one of the 10 largest school systems in the nation, with 178,000 students across the entire state. Teachers must have a valid Hawaii teacher license and prior authorization to work in the United States.

“We are certainly not looking for people who don't want to work,” Dela Cruz said. “We are looking for qualified and dedicated education professionals who are committed to working with students as we transform education in Hawaii.”

In particular, the Hawaii State Department of Education is looking for qualified special education teachers, especially those with experience and qualifications to teach deaf or hard-of-hearing students, and secondary-level math, science, and English teachers.

One of the reasons that Hawaii struggles with high teacher turnover is the high cost of living in Hawaii. According to the National Education Association, the average starting teacher salary for Hawaii in 2012 - 2013 was $41,027, just above the national average. However, Hawaii is the most expensive state to live in, according to CNBC.

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