Teachers in Albany said they are becoming increasingly more exhausted as the school year progresses, dealing with staffing shortages and catching up students who have slipped through the cracks academically throughout the pandemic.
The dearth of substitute teachers is just another layer of stress, with educators often having to fill in for another teacher during their prep period.
“I’m not sure how much longer I can keep this up,” Amanda Miles said during the Greater Albany Public Schools listening session on Monday. “I’m so at the end in terms of where I’m at with my job."
The teachers, she said, "are drowning.”
Miles teaches digital photography at South Albany High School. While she said she is willing to fill in for her colleagues when they need her, she has had to write up several referrals for poor behavior or lack of participation because she is not the teacher the kids are used to seeing every day.
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“It’s a myriad of issues coming together that makes it feel so hard,” Miles said.
Teachers get one hour built into their workday to prep and plan for the week ahead. When they spend that time subbing for other teachers, they have to create lesson plans and grade assignments at home late at night.
To help offset some of this burden, GAPS is hiring several “relief subs” to come to their designated school every day and teach wherever they are most needed. The district is trying to get one relief sub in every elementary school, two in every middle school and three in every high school, except Albany Options School, which does not need as many due to lower enrollment.
Most of the positions are filled, but some schools still do not have a relief sub. GAPS Human Resources Director Heather Huzefka said it has been difficult to fill the positions because people who decide to substitute teach do it so they don’t have to work full time.
Richard Shaw, sub administrator for GAPS, has been conducting outreach to people in the district sub pool to find relief subs. He said the pool is actually increasing because of the new guidelines that now allow for subs who don’t have a four-year degree.
Relief subs must be licensed, either with an emergency license, a restricted license or a teaching license. The emergency license is for those who do not have a four-year degree, and the restricted license is for those who do have one. Even if people are not yet licensed, Shaw encourages those who are interested to reach out and he will help them obtain a license.
“The mental health of our staff is number one, and the morale and energy,” he said. “We’ve all been through the gauntlet with COVID.”
Relief subs make $230 per day, and the position comes with benefits. The position is full time, with each day bringing something new depending on where the need is greatest.
The relief sub position is set to go until the end of the first semester. However, GAPS interim-superintendent Rob Saxton said it will most likely continue through the rest of the year.
Anyone who is interested in becoming a relief sub can contact Shaw at 541-967-4503.
Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_.