The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

Wanted: Substitute Teachers

Local schools are in the midst of a sub shortage, and teachers are suffering

When students returned to classrooms after an era of pandemic-induced distance learning, schools across the country struggled to cover teacher absences due to a decreased volume of substitute teachers. Over the three years since then, the sub shortage has remained an issue for many school districts, including Bend-La Pine Schools.

According to Ann Marie Anderson, a recruitment, retention and substitute specialist for the High Desert Education Service District (High Desert ESD), the pool of substitute teachers is simply too small to serve the 10 school districts and various private schools under the High Desert ESD’s jurisdiction.

“While we may have a pool of 900 amazing substitutes, not all of them can work every school day for us,” said Anderson. “Therefore we need well over 1,000 substitutes to have a healthy level of support for our community.”

This shortage of substitutes has caused many issues for Bend-La Pine Schools’ educators and students over the past several years, particularly in local middle schools such as Pacific Crest and Cascade. Sub jobs are regularly unfilled, and school employees are forced to pick up the slack, covering extra classes throughout the day if a sub isn’t available. 

“I very much depend on my prep period to get grading, planning and other work completed,” said Lynn Neemann, a PE and Health teacher at Pacific Crest Middle School. “[Giving up my prep period to cover classes] creates a very rigorous and exhausting day in an already demanding profession.”

Neemann is not alone in this feeling—many teachers rely on their prep periods to stay caught up on work and plan future lessons and activities. The pressure to cover classes during these valuable periods can lead to additional stress and force teachers to grade and do other work outside of school hours.

Another issue teachers face is the worry that if they are unable to make it to work, the sub job will go unfilled and their classes will be improperly covered. Because of this, teachers may decide that they need to come to school despite illness or a family emergency.

“It definitely lends to a sense of guilt for some teachers, especially if their job goes unfilled, because they know they’re putting pressure on the rest of the team to cover for them,” said Kristy Knoll, assistant principal at Cascade Middle School.

When educators are under such high levels of stress and classes are taught by a revolving door of school employees instead of a single, substitute teacher, students also struggle. Teachers who are covering a single period of a class have little time to acquaint themselves with the lesson plans and curriculum, therefore providing a lower quality of instruction than a substitute who had the opportunity to review the material beforehand. Content may be glossed over or skipped altogether, forcing the teacher to spend extra time reviewing the lesson once they return.

The shortage of subs has created a variety of problems in Bend-La Pine Schools and beyond, but there is no straightforward solution to these challenges. Anderson and her colleagues at the High Desert ESD are working hard to raise community awareness about the sub shortage and recruit more subs to cover teacher absences across Central Oregon. However, the process is not moving fast enough. 

“If you are an attentive, caring professional, you likely have the skills to help as a substitute in our classrooms,” said Anderson. “Substituting is a great fit for so many people!” 

“I hope more people get out there to help out,” said an anonymous substitute teacher who frequently covers classes at Pacific Crest and Summit. “It’s an extremely rewarding line of work, and the flexibility is wonderful.”

Subs play an invaluable role in all school districts, and while Bend-La Pine Schools appreciates the efforts of current substitute teachers, there are not enough of them to fill all of Central Oregon’s sub jobs. So let this serve as a message to all licensed teachers looking for a flexible way to make a difference in the lives of local students and educators: consider visiting the High Desert ESD’s website and registering as a substitute teacher. To end this sub shortage, Bend-La Pine Schools and the ESD need as much help as they can get.

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About the Contributor
Lauren Shein
Lauren Shein, Staff Writer

Lauren Shein has been an avid reader and writer since 2nd grade, and is excited to dive into journalism this year with the Summit Pinnacle! At school, this sophomore staff writer can be found checking out too many books from the library, solving math problems, and running laps around the Summit track. On the weekends, Lauren enjoys exploring Bend’s local hiking trails with family, juggling an assortment of half-finished art projects, and petting as many dogs as possible.

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  • A

    Ann Marie AndersonApr 16, 2024 at 11:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this important reporting!

  • J

    JenniApr 10, 2024 at 11:18 am

    Great article!