DENVER (KDVR) — According to the Colorado Department of Education, of the 8,294 teachers the state needed to hire last school year, 9% of those remain unfilled.

The number of unfilled teaching positions increased by 64% in the previous school year.

Some teachers beginning at Cherry Creek School District this year weigh in on their biggest struggles.

“I think one of the bigger challenges is that teacher shortage and having good teachers,” Liz Groves, a teacher at Grandview High School, said. “I think another challenge is going to be just the lack of resilience. Especially I’ve seen a lot of apathy in students after COVID.”

“I think teachers oftentimes, they’re not credited for the work that we do and how much professional effort we have to put into maintaining our career. But also, teaching is a labor of love,” said Senika O’Connor, a teacher at Arrowhead Elementary. “I think it’s hard for teachers to feel in our current day environments, especially post COVID with all of the adaptations that we’ve all made. Some teachers don’t feel like we are acknowledged for the hard work that we do, and in ways that is beneficial to us. It’s like, you know, it’s good to verbally be acknowledged for that. But I also have a family to go home to.”

Earlier this month, Cherry Creek School District hosted its new educator orientation. They hired 459 new teachers just this year. That’s the most CCSD has had in 10 years.

About 27% of those are first-year teachers and 67% have a master’s degree or higher.

CCSD attributes its big number of new hires to an increase in teacher salaries. First-year teachers make more than $58,710 a year.

It is something that has not gone unnoticed.

“It’s so nice to know that I’m going to be compensated for the work that I would naturally do. You know, the salary schedule is, it’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal, and it feels good. To be acknowledged and rewarded for the hard work that we all do,” O’Connor said.

“The reason why I chose Cherry Creek School District is because I feel wanted and that’s a big thing for me as well. Not just because there might be a teacher shortage but I felt throughout the job fair. I think it was February or March and then the hiring process that the principal and hiring committee here wanted me because of the expertise and skills, and I guess personality that I bring,” said James Vasquez, a teacher at Grandview High School.

Cherry Creek is doing a staggered start. Grades three, four, five and six start Aug. 14, and grades one, two, seven and eight start Aug. 15, then everyone comes together on Aug. 16. Each high school is doing its own thing.