Carol Lommen had been enjoying retirement for five years. But when she heard the Clark County School District was in need of teachers, she didn't hesitate to offer her services.
"Teaching keeps me young at heart," the 64-year-old said.
Lommen returned to the school system in January 2006 to teach English and theater at Hyde Park Middle School.
Prior to that, she was a drama teacher at Bonanza High School for 26 years. The school's two theaters are named after her.
Lommen said she missed the day-to-day interaction with students.
"I love imparting some wisdom I've gained into my students. It gives me a glow," she said.
District officials hope more retired teachers like Lommen are willing to illuminate the minds of students by returning to the district to alleviate its teacher shortage.
A law passed by the 2001 Legislature allows retired education personnel who have valid teaching licenses to return to teaching if they instruct in high-need areas. In exchange, they are permitted to collect and add to their pension while earning a teaching salary.
Lommen is paid about $39,000 a year from her pension, while she earns more than $63,000 a year teaching.
Lommen said the salary and retirement pay make her feel "rewarded."
The district circulated a memo to all of its principals in late June informing them of the 2001 law. The memo named 12 specialties the state has designated as high needs, including special education and secondary math and science. Lommen was hired as a special needs teacher.
As of Monday, the district was short 541 teachers. It began the 2006-07 school year short 344 teachers.
Byron Green, director of recruitment for the district, said the school system won't begin hiring retired teachers until August because the objective of the law is to hire teachers in areas where the district failed to do so.
But Green said just because the retired teachers will be some of the last hires into the school system, it does not mean they are unqualified or any worse than those hired before them.
"We have not had that experience at all. It's been quite the opposite," Green said. "These teachers are extremely well- versed in their subject areas. These are teachers who are ready to go and are exemplary employees."
Green said retired teachers who are hired back into the district tend to stay a while.
Of the 96 teachers who were hired between the 2001-02 and 2005-06 school years, 66 remain in the district, he said.
The district hired 128 retired teachers in 2006-07. But Green said officials won't know how many teachers stayed in the school system until the fall.
Keith Rheault, Nevada's superintendent of public instruction, said he supports the law that allows the rehiring of retirees to reduce teacher shortages.
Rheault said about 8,800 people in Clark County have valid teaching licenses but are not using them. He said he didn't know how many of them would be eligible to return to teaching under the law.
The law specifies three ways to qualify for a return to teaching: an individual of any age who has 30 years in the state's Public Employees' Retirement System or PERS; a person 65 years or older with five years in PERS; or a person 60 years or older with 10 years in PERS.
Rheault said that while some people might believe the law cheats taxpayers and allows public employees to double dip, or collect a salary and retirement pay simultaneously, he doesn't see it that way.
"I see it as helping the state, and not the other way around."