Staff Editorial: The need to overcome the substitute teacher crisis


Brandon Giles

Due to the lack of substitutes, doors on many classrooms have been closed. Students are redirected to the cafeteria for supervision.

The national COVID-19 crisis in full effect with its new and more contagious variant, Omicron, has decimated much of the workforce, especially within the education system. As COVID-19 cases rise across the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD), Bonita Vista High (BVH) is left to deal with a series of substitute shortages and suffer the consequences as a result.

In some cases, students are left outside their classroom waiting for their substitute teacher to arrive. In other cases, students are directed to the school cafeteria or library to be administered by a substitute teacher already in charge of one to two other classes.

BVH has no choice but to ask teachers to sacrifice their preparation period and serve as substitutes for another class; this should not be the case at all. For some teachers, their preparation period is an essential part of the day that allows time for arranging agendas and lessons for their classes. In the most extreme cases, students are left alone without a teacher or substitute present at all.

To provide quality education, teachers must be given the chance to devote 100 percent of their time before they can sacrifice their preparation periods to cover a class without a substitute. Students should also be supervised by a faculty member, if not a substitute teacher. The shortage of substitutes should not distract the attention of other teachers from their class. That way, BVH can ensure that students at BVH are receiving the best possible education despite the unfortunate circumstances.

The reality is, teachers are going to great lengths to support students even when the teachers themselves have tested positive for COVID-19. For instance, Physics teacher Elan Hiller would provide a Zoom link for students to join while he was staying at home with the virus. That way, Hiller would still be able to teach his students while sick.

The reality is, teachers are going to great lengths to support students even when the teachers themselves have tested positive for COVID-19.

— Carina Muniz

“More often than not, my class is shuttled to the cafeteria with five other classes. They’re not doing the lesson I left for the substitute,” Hiller said.“I’m try[ing] something so that it’s not a complete 100 percent loss.”

Similarly, when Accelerated English 10 and Drama teacher Rosamaria Sias contracted COVID-19, she continued to appear in class virtually through organizing online meetings via Google Meet. According to Sias, she wanted her students to know that she was not gone, or that she was not going to disappear and not do her part as a teacher despite contracting COVID-19. Amidst the substitute shortage issue, teachers like Sias should receive more support in ensuring that teachers can recover while continuing to be involved in students’ academics.

“In all my years of teaching, this has probably been the most challenging year. I thought that distance learning would’ve been [the most challenging], but it’s not. In fact, having so many students absent has definitely been difficult as far as planning,” Sias said.

At BVH, substitute shortages make the process of educating more difficult. In the Crusader, reporter Nicole Macgaffey’s article, “Substitutes for sick days,” stated that to fill the classes that need coverage, BVH Principal’s Secretary DiBenedetto pulls substitutes and other teachers during their preparation period and assigns them to a class.

“She [DiBenedetto] explained that this is a time-consuming process because she also needs to give teachers their salaries for the class or classes they cover and log the information into the payroll system,” Macgaffey wrote.

In news website Axios, article titled, “Schools desperate for substitute teachers,” reporter Erin Doherty claims that school districts across the nation have adapted and worked around the teacher shortage. In Texas, Idaho and Colorado, school districts have called on parents to fill in as substitute teachers, whereas New Mexico school districts asked the state’s National Guard to step in. Finally, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed an order authorizing state employees to become substitute teachers without losing employment, pay or benefits.

While these states are finding solutions to the substitute shortage, BVH has not successfully adapted to the virus. It is essential to collaborate with the community to brainstorm solutions and foster a stronger sense of unity. According to Macgaffey’s article, there is only one person in the district clearing substitutes, making the process about a month-long to get hired as of now. 

To increase the quality of education inside the classrooms, SUHSD must take the first step to adapt to the pandemic by increasing the number of people working on clearing substitutes. That way, students may sit inside the comforts of their classrooms and teachers are free from worrying about whether or not they have a substitute teacher to cover for them.

In times like these, it is essential for students, staff and administrators to unite and support the teachers of BVH and the SUHSD to return the quality of education. It will take a while to return to a new “normal” at BVH, however, there is no better time to begin the process by providing support to the fundamental people on campus—BVH teachers.