Virginia is facing a critical teacher shortage, and Old Dominion University's online learning program is working to do something about it

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According to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), there are more than 1,000 openings for teachers across the Commonwealth. The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the problem, driving up the need for licensed, qualified teachers in Virginia's classrooms.

ODU's education building

Education Building at ODU's main campus

There is a pressing teacher shortage nationally and within the Commonwealth that has worsened through the pandemic

According to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), there are more than 1,000 openings for teachers across the Commonwealth. The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the problem, driving up the need for licensed, qualified teachers in Virginia's classrooms.

"There is a pressing teacher shortage nationally and within the Commonwealth that has worsened through the pandemic" says Maggie Barber, Associate Dean for Educator Preparation & Assessment for ODU's Darden College of Education & Professional Studies. "Great teachers are more important than ever as we return to the classroom this Fall. Teachers play a critical role in inspiring and preparing K-12 students for the future. Teacher preparation programs like those at ODU are essential for developing high quality teachers able to promote positive and enriching learning environments for their students.”

The top ten critical needs have been identified by the VDOE as:

1. Special Education
2. Elementary Education PreK-6
3. Middle Education Grades 6-8
4. Mathematics Grades 6-12 (including Algebra 1)
5. Career and Technical Education
6. Science (Secondary)
7. Foreign Language PreK-12
8. English (Secondary)
9. Library Media PreK-12
10. History and Social Science (Secondary)

All of the top ten critical teaching shortage endorsement areas are available through ODU's Darden College of Education. While not all programs are available fully online, most of the programs offer at least some online courses.

These online ODU programs address four of Virginia's top needs:
Special Education
Elementary Education PreK-6
Career and Technical Education
Library Media PreK-12

"ODU’s online teacher preparation programs provide rigorous, field-based preparation for aspiring teachers." says Barber. "Online courses provide a flexibility and convenience to students, particularly those working full-time or transferring in from community colleges. We partner with students to identify student teaching placements in their local communities.”

Special Education

Special Education teachers have a big heart and a desire to help special needs students in creative, important ways.

In ODU's online special education bachelor's program, courses are taught by faculty with direct and current school-based special education experience. They can also provide career mentoring.

ODU's online program has two special education concentrations to prepare for licensure and endorsement: general curriculum or adapted curriculum.

  • General curriculum prepares you to teach children with mild disabilities, grades K-12.
  • Adapted curriculum prepares you to teach children with moderate to severe or multiple disabilities, grades K-12.

The program includes extensive field work and a teacher candidate internship.

Click here for more information about ODU's online Bachelor of Science concentrating on special education.

Elementary Education PreK-6

Elementary Education has been the second greatest critical shortage area for the state of Virginia since 2010, following behind Special Education. Elementary Education teachers foster a love for learning and spark curiosity and inquiry among their students. They are the ones who nurture young learners and lay the foundation upon which all other learning occurs. They are vitally important in our schools and across our state.

The elementary education program at ODU is particularly appealing to online students, as we offer our coursework in a variety of formats and on multiple days and times. ODU also partners with school divisions across the state to place online students in field experiences near their homes, no matter where they reside.

Students who pursue elementary education love kids! While they also become masters of content, their true passion is building relationships with children to find what makes them get excited about learning, to foster creativity, and encourage critical thinking. They enjoy multiple opportunities through ODU’s program to have hands-on practice in diverse settings to apply these skills.

Click here for more information about ODU's online bachelor of science degree concentrating in elementary education.

Career and Technical Education

Technology Education is a critical shortage teaching area in Virginia for middle school and high school. Don’t let the program name fool you; technology education is not just learning about computers or other communications devices such as cell phones. Technology Education studies the human-designed environment and is closely tied to science education which studies the natural environment. It's an emerging field with critical practical applications.

“Schools are expanding makerspaces, robotics, engineering classes, and other technology activities, so technology teachers are in very high demand," says ODU Professor Philip Reed. "Our program at ODU can now be completed online so students across the Commonwealth can enter this exciting career field.”

Click here for more information about ODU's online bachelor's of science degree in career and technical education.

Library Media PreK-12

Older school librarians are retiring. Fortunately, many administrators know that a qualified school librarian can be an effective member of their staff. School librarians work with every learner in the school.

Many teachers who have been in the classroom for a while are attracted to the school library program. For them, the school library position is appealing as a way to stay in the school but in a position that will allow them to engage with students in a more authentic manner. School librarians are also leaders within their schools and school districts, viewed more as coaches and professional resources to their peers rather than evaluators (such as administrators), which is often appealing to those who aspire to hold a leadership role.

ODU's online MLIS is a perfect fit for individuals looking to became school librarians. We have a path to meet each student’s goal.

For more information about ODU's Master of Library and Information Studies, as well as other educational master's degrees, click here.

Besides passion and satisfaction, teaching in Virginia can be a lucrative career prospect. The VDOE says that the average teacher salary was $60,265 across the commonwealth. In some communities with a dire need, school districts are also offering signing bonuses for certain teachers, such as special education and technology education.

Help is also available for interested students. VDOE offers the Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan Program to provide financial support for students preparing to teach in one of the critical teaching areas.

"Teaching is a rewarding career with the opportunity to give back to your community and invest in the future," says Barber. "ODU programs help respond to the need of school divisions for teachers committed to the diverse needs of students across Virginia."

For more information about the ODU's online education degrees and certifications, visit

About Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University, located in the coastal city of Norfolk, is Virginia's entrepreneurial-minded doctoral research university and has been delivering distance learning programs for 35 years. We offer more than 120 programs through ODUOnline in a variety of formats, allowing students to complete degree programs across the world. ODU serves more than 24,000 students annually by providing the same rigorous academics online and on-campus. Learn more about ODUOnline's programs by visiting

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Jennifer George
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