HENDERSON, Texas (KETK)- Henderson ISD is using new tools to hire more teachers as a nationwide shortage continues.

The district believes a big cause of the lack of teachers applying is the pandemic.

Many experienced teachers are retiring and others are resigning because they are worried about getting COVID-19.

Staff with Henderson ISD said they are looking for quality and are less about quantity when it comes to hiring teachers.

“We want teachers that want to build relationships with these kids and take ownership with us in getting those kids where they need to be,” said Amanda Wallace, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel and Policy at Henderson ISD.

While they wait for the right fit, the school district has been hiring long-term substitutes to teach a class for the whole school year.

This is because if there is stability and consistency in a classroom, then students learn better.

“We have to send parent notifications within 30 days letting them know that we have someone who’s quality in the position will be evaluated like a teacher, that we have the same expectations as the teacher,” added Wallace.

School officials are now turning to first-time educators straight out of college who are eager to get in the classroom and be passionate about teaching.

“We need some replacements. We need some teachers to come in from colleges and universities that really love kids (and) are passionate about growing kids and helping them learn,” said Wallace.

To bring more applications in, the district is finding new ways to entice teachers.

For example, Henderson ISD is newly approved for a program that provides bonuses to the top educators at their schools.

They are judged based on their evaluations and their students’ growth.

“They can reach that master teacher level which is the top 5% of the teachers that we submit to the state, and then that will make them eligible to be designated as a master teacher and receive a lump sum payment of up to 23,000 dollars,” said Wallace.

The district also offers support and guidance for new teachers with programs like their “new teacher academy,” which meets for four sessions a year.

“We want to provide them mentoring and support so that they can grow as a teacher so that they can get the support they need, as they go through the pitfalls of learning to teach,” explained Wallace.

The school district currently has 235 teachers and they are looking to add even more.