Alabama and other southern states rank low among top teaching states

UNA is known as a go-to college for education majors, but a survey from The Wallet Hub shows Alabama is not a top state for teachers.

Alabama fell below the middle of the list of overall best teaching states at No. 31 out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“It’s not really about the quality of teaching as much as it’s about the economic factors,” said Victoria Hulsey, professor of special education and elementary education. “That (rank) sits very well with the economy in this area.”

Average starting salary, median annual salary, competition for jobs and teacher-to-student ratio are some of the qualities considered in the rankings. The quality of education students get in the state is not considered.

“I’m kind of shocked,” said freshman Madison Jacobs. “I expected it to be higher up on the list.”

Alabama is not alone in low rank. Neighboring states fell even lower — with Mississippi at No. 50, Florida at No. 44, Tennessee at No. 41, and Georgia at No. 33.

Sophomore Tyler Corum, a secondary education major, said the results of the survey are not surprising because Alabama’s economy is lacking.

“We don’t have the resources that the bigger cities have,” Corum said. “I figured we would be somewhere in the mid-level range.”

Despite the state’s poor scoring, some students say they still want to teach in Alabama. In opportunity and job competition the state moved closer to the top of the list at No. 17, according to the study.

Corum said there is no doubt he will stay in Alabama.

However, some students, like senior Miranda Mcafee, a music education major, said they will leave the state to advance their careers.

“Alabama does not compare to the opportunities and experiences I can get anywhere else,” Mcafee said. “Since I’m primarily interested in the performance aspect of music, I will go where that takes me.”

Hulsey said getting a job teaching in Alabama is possible — students just need to know where to look.

“If you’re willing to move to the more rural areas, you’re going to find a job,” Hulsey said. “Coming out of UNA, where we produce a lot of good teachers, you’re going to have a lot more competition in university towns and bigger cities.”

Alabama’s work environment rank for teachers is even lower at 41, according to the study.

Although classroom conditions are poor in Alabama, they are not necessarily a reflection on the teachers, Husley said.

“I can see why we ranked so low — work conditions, job opportunities and salaries,” she said. “I don’t think that means that we have the worst teachers, not by a long shot.

“I think we have some of the best teachers around who are willing to teach in those settings,” Husley said.

Corum said the negative view of teachers in Alabama is often a result of students’ lack of motivation to learn.

This can skew perspectives of teaching quality, he said.

Husley said people typically become teachers because of their love of helping others and making a difference.

“People don’t go into teaching because of money,” Husley said. “They don’t go into teaching because of status.

“I think the only reason to go into teaching is because you want to make a difference in the lives of kids. If that’s your motivation, then you’re going to find a job, and you’re going to do well at it. It’s going to be the biggest challenge but the greatest reward.”