Vicke Pyles returned to the classroom this year as a teacher at Holston Middle School. New state incentives allow eligible teachers to continue receiving retirement benefits while working full-time.

When Vicke Pyles signed her retirement papers in 2019, the veteran educator’s hands were shaking. 

After teaching for more than 30 years, she felt that the financial advantages of retirement were too good to pass up – but leaving the classroom was difficult. That fall, Pyles went to Charlotte with her grandson during the week that teachers returned to school, because she knew that being away from the classroom would be painful. 

But after reading a lot of books and realizing that “you can only clean the house so much”, she got a call from a friend who said West Valley Middle School needed a supply teacher. 

That temporary assignment was followed by others, and earlier this year Pyles began researching options for a full-time return. In the process, she learned about a new state incentive program that allows eligible teacher retirees to benefit from two new options:

  • Returning to the classroom at a 100% salary level, while still receiving 70% of their retirement benefits; or
  • Returning to the classroom in a hard-to-staff area at an 85% salary level, while receiving 100% of their retirement benefits.

With that in mind, Pyles chose the second option and returned to the classroom this fall as a math teacher at Holston Middle School.

In an interview, she said that “going back has been awesome”, adding that “A lot of my friends thought I was crazy for going back, but I said, ‘This is me.’”

The incentive program is aimed at addressing a teacher shortage across the state, and fits with the Knox County Schools priority of “Great Educators In Every School.”

In addition to the new pathways, retired KCS teachers have the option of returning to part-time positions (of 120 days or less) while still receiving 100% of their retirement benefits.

Jennifer Hemmelgarn, assistant superintendent of business and talent for KCS, said the district is thinking creatively to meet classroom staffing needs.

“Veteran educators are a tremendous resource and we value their skills and experience,” she said. “Our hope is that these incentives will eliminate barriers for retired teachers who miss the classroom and want to continue making a difference in the lives of students.”

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