District Suffers Substitute Shortage


photo courtesy of Mason Kane

Simon McKean, Life Editor

Imagine going to class on a normal fall morning and waiting for class to commence. The bell rings and you wait another five minutes for a teacher to come. Then 15. Then 45. Suddenly, without a teacher setting foot in the room, the period has gone by.

According to EHS senior Rachel Mueller, exactly that occurred last week in Mrs. Rice’s 2nd-hour calculus class. The teacher was absent and no sub showed up.

While no one explained to the class exactly why no one showed up to cover Ms. Rice’s class, District 7 has recently been struggling with a lack of substitute teachers, affecting students and teachers alike.

As put in a Sept. 28 email to parents and staff from Superintendent Patrick Shelton, “The district has been experiencing a shortage of substitute teachers this year, which has resulted in pulling employees from their assigned locations to cover a classroom.”

The email also detailed that Friday Nov. 12 will be a “no attendance day”, due to difficulties staffing.

Yet according to Rice’s coworkers in the English department, the shortage has affected them more personally than the larger district.

“I have already subbed twenty times over my prep period this school year alone in classes ranging from Calculus AB to Foods and Nutrition to Physics,” EHS English teacher Beth Warner said.

Often, teachers are called to sub during their prep periods, which some use to prepare for classes. Warner understands the necessary sacrifice.

“While this planning time can be difficult to give up, I know that the need is there, so I try to help out whenever I can.”

Her department chair, Heather Haskins, can’t afford to lose that time.

“Personally, I have subbed only once this year,” Haskins said. “As an English teacher of honors courses and AP, as well as department chair, I do not really have any additional time that I can afford to give to subbing.” 

Haskins said that losing her prep period harms her ability to both adapt curriculum to individual classes and carry out duties as department chair, which earn her no extra prep time.

Yet these issues aren’t unique to District 7 according to the Belleville News-Democrat, this year the Madison Country Regional Office of Education reported less than half the subs as in the last two.

Both teachers believe this may be a symptom of a greater issue. 

“It seems as though there is a shortage of subs just as there is a shortage of employees in the rest of the workforce currently,” Warner said. “Many businesses are struggling to hire and maintain enough quality help right now, and school districts are facing this same challenge.”

Haskins agreed and said that even before the decrease in available subs, it was difficult to cover every classroom. 

Yet, according to senior Abby Law, there might be some good in having teachers sub:

“…usually if we have a teacher from the building for a sub they are a lot more understanding and seem to listen to the class more.”

According to Warner, there’s some benefit for teachers as well.

“It is nice to be able to see what students are up to in different disciplines as well. I think people are really starting to recognize the importance of having quality subs and teachers alike who feel safe, supported, and valued.”