Panama City, Fla. (WMBB) – Bay District Schools have been struggling to keep teachers in the classrooms. About a dozen have quit since the school year began 3-weeks ago.

President of the teachers union, Denise Hinson, has been a teacher for 34 years. She said she has never seen so many empty classrooms compared to what she has been seeing this year. She feels teacher shortages are the result of a lack of respect from politicians, and low salaries, especially for veteran teachers.

“They are not in the classrooms and they are not coming to us and asking us what our students need,” Hinson said. “If they would just stop and think in Tallahassee when they are making all these laws that affect us, I mean there are 20 laws in the state of Florida, just on teachers’ salaries.”

The district is offering supplemental pay to any secondary education teacher that gives up their planning period to teach an extra class.

“It’s time-consuming but it’s a good use of time because we’re helping children to reach their potential and do what it is they need to do or want to do when they get out into society,” Hinson said.

Bay District Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt also acknowledged the overtime and dedication that Bay District teachers are putting into the schools because of this shortage.

“They’re teaching for seven straight hours and that’s what many of our teachers are doing because they know we don’t have a choice,” Husfelt said. “And they’re willing to do that and I appreciate them doing that.”

Hilson said she wishes the state would listen to the teachers who are in the classrooms every day before making decisions without all the appropriate information.

The district is continuing to recruit teachers from other career fields and is encouraging those recruits to be patient and not get discouraged.