The Student News of Yukon High School

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Oklahoma Faces Alarming Substitute Teacher Shortage

Lynda Landrith, a well-known guest teacher, gave some encouragement for new guest teachers who are interested in substituting. “Substituting takes time and energy but if you’ve got the time to come and serve, do it, you know give it a shot,” Landrith said.

Substitute teachers, or in the Yukon school district guest teachers, are the unsung heroes of the education system, stepping in to fill the gaps when full-time teachers are absent due to illness, professional development or personal reasons. However, Oklahoma’s schools are experiencing an alarming scarcity of these essential educators.

Lynda Landrith was a full time guest teacher. She came into work five days a week. Landrith worked as a guest teacher since 2016 and didn’t plan on quitting anytime soon. She enjoyed the challenge of calming down noisy students and found fulfillment in helping them. To her, volunteering at school is for her own personal benefit because she loves working with high school students.

“I feel I can connect with high schoolers because I feel I can relate to them on a certain level,” Landrith said.

Gary Jech, a long time substitute teacher, taught classes for extended periods of time making him a long term sub. Jech was a guest teacher at Yukon High school for three years. He stated that his experiences have been interesting. He’s constantly adjusting to different personalities and behaviors of the students and teachers. Jech emphasized the importance of caring relationships with students.

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“You have to be able to adjust to the students and be able to change how you react to certain things,” Jech said.

Secretary Gale Rutherford was the person in charge of getting the guest substitutes settled in and assigned. Rutherford worked at the school for over twelve years and witnessed a drastic decline in the number of substitutes over the past few years. She’s worried how schools will operate with no one to substitute classes and discussed the shortage of teachers in the district.

“It’s a great impact to the district when you can’t find substitute teachers to cover for teachers,” Rutherford said. “There is no one to watch the students.”

The shortage of substitute teachers had a profound impact on students, teachers and the substitute teachers themselves. For full-time teachers, the absence of subs meant taking on extra responsibilities and feeling overwhelmed, as indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in their January 2023 monthly labor review.

Building a relationship with the students is important.

— Gary Jech

Substitute teachers worked overtime, having to take over more than one class a day. As a result, teacher burnout and stress levels have increased in recent years. Students often found themselves in overcrowded classrooms, making it challenging to receive individualized attention.

“I’m here almost everyday,” Jech said. “The only time I’m not here is if I don’t pick up a job.” Rutherford believed that the lack of substitute teachers impacted the district’s negativity, as substitute teachers are having to cover classes without adequate support, leading to increased workload and stress.

“[Teachers] are having to sub for other classes during their planning period,” Rutherford said. “This is a time for them to catch up on grades or assignments so it makes it harder on them.”

Teachers, already grappling with various challenges, find it even more challenging to focus on their teaching duties when they are forced to handle additional classroom management issues. Students may experience interruptions in their learning process as they adapt to different teaching styles and a lack of consistency in the classroom.

“Building a relationship with the students is important,” Jech said. “We need to make sure that those young adults or toddlers, whoever it may be, feel comfortable.”

The substitute teacher shortage is a pressing issue that demands immediate attention and innovative solutions. Meanwhile guest teachers are sharing their experiences working in the classrooms and with the students.

Sharing the importance of respect and trust when it comes to teaching in a new environment. By treating students with kindness and fairness, actively engaging in the teaching process and setting clear expectations, guest teachers can establish a positive classroom environment.

“The number one thing when it comes to being a substitute teacher is you must maintain control but you also have to be very courteous,” Landrith said. “You need to be kind if you expect them to be kind to you.”

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About the Contributor
Ondai Stevenson, Writer/Photographer

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