SHELDON, Mo. — Teachers are some of the most in-demand employees in America right now, especially in rural school districts.

Superintendents in smaller schools say sometimes filling those jobs can be a struggle, but there are things they can offer to help level the playing field, especially for someone brand new to the profession.

Robert Ewan looks forward to coming to work.

“After about a half a cup of coffee I’m really excited,” said Robert Ewan, Social Studies Teacher, Sheldon School District.

This is his first full year as a school teacher, and his newest career. For several years, he worked as a bricklayer but says he made the change to teaching because of the impact he could have.

“You know, you build a brick building, and it lasts for a long time. You drive by, you can tell your family, yeah, I worked on that, I built that. This is going to last longer,” said Ewan.

Ewan is one of five new hires in the Sheldon School District this year and says he chose Sheldon for one big reason.

“Small schools just have a family environment, a family feel,” said Ewan.

Sheldon Superintendent Jason Irwin says in the hyper-competitive market for teachers, that’s a big part of landing a teacher like Ewan.

“We sell it as a family atmosphere, and we want them to be happy,” said Jason Irwin, Superintendent, Sheldon School District.

This is Irwin’s eighth year as superintendent, and he says how you hire in a rural school has changed in recent years.

“Now we have to sell our school to them to get the applicants here, versus applicants selling themselves to us,” said Irwin.

But when he got his first teaching job two decades ago…

“I was selling myself, what could I bring to Sheldon, and now I’m on the other end of it,” said Irwin.

Irwin says the Sheldon School District has a fairly low turnover rate, and most years only has one or two openings. While they were lucky enough to fill those roles early this year, that’s not always the case. In 2022, for example, they had to move much quicker.