ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Nationwide teacher shortages continue to impact schools nationwide, but for programs made for disadvantaged students; the shortage proves even more difficult.

While family day at the Abilene Zoo was filled with smiles and adventure, Head Start Director at Region 14 Angie Mendoza said the Head Start program was made to help low-income students succeed.

“You’re in it because it’s a rewarding job and you’re in it for the children,” said Mendoza.

With the school year almost coming to an end, Mendoza said they are concerned about what staffing will look like next school year.

“Since the pandemic, there’s been a shortage of teachers nationwide and head start for our program, you have to have an early childhood education background,” Mendoza explained.

The staff however does not satisfy the need of more than 800 students.

“The children are there, but right now, the staff needs to be there as well,” shared Mendoza.

Courtney Otto is a Head Start mom in Anson. She said programs like this are crucial in communities since its staff assists parents with accessing community resources.

“They help you if you need Medicaid, they’ll help you get a job if you need help with a job, they’ll help you get a GED,” Otto shared.

Hannah Marquez is a former Head Start student and now works with the program. She shared it may be challenging to hire teachers due to the issues students face outside of the classroom.

“Head Start is hard, it’s not an easy job, it’s not. I think you would take a regular teacher’s job and you add a little bit more work on to it honestly, just because there’s so much paperwork, so much extra stuff teachers have to do just to make sure it has to do with safety. It has to do with their health,” shared Marquez.

Regardless of the resources, Mendoza said they will continue to support the students the best way they can.