Algonquin suffers repercussions due to substitute shortage


Jadyn Jacobs

Students work in the auditorium where classes have been relocated due to the shortage of subs.

Jadyn Jacobs, Staff Writer

Both this school year and last school year, students and staff have been impacted by a lack of substitute teachers.

The lack of substitute teachers is a problem not just for Algonquin, but for schools across the country. According to a Time Magazine article published in November 2021, “More than 75% of school principals and district leaders said they were having trouble finding enough substitutes to cover teacher absences this year, according to a national EdWeek Research Center survey published in October. More administrators reported challenges hiring substitutes than any other school position, including bus drivers, paraprofessionals, full-time teachers and custodians.” 

Due to the shortage, multiple classes have often been relocated to the cafeteria or auditorium to be covered by one substitute teacher.

“If someone knows they’re going to be out, then I can pre-arrange a sub to come in,” Sub Coordinator Diane Egizi said. “If someone calls out sick in the morning, I call subs in the morning around 6:30 and ask them if they can come in for the day. The problem is that a lot of times we don’t have a lot of subs… I’ve already scheduled everybody. So that’s when we end up with the cafeteria studies.”

Egizi says there have been more subs this year than last year; since the pandemic began, there have been three additional building subs. 

“Building subs are obligated to come in three days a week,” Egizi said. “So no matter what, those three people are here three days a week. Even if there wasn’t somebody out, [the building subs] would still come in because that’s what they’re contracted to do. But it never happens that we don’t need them.” 

According to Egizi, the starting pay for a substitute in the district is $95 a day, and this rate increases based on whether or not they are a building sub and what their teaching license is. 

The subs do a great job and have really helped us keep the school open the last two years. They are unbelievable with what they do.

— Diane Egizi, Sub Coordinator

Egizi is thankful for all the subs at Algonquin. 

“The subs do a great job and have really helped us keep the school open the last two years,” Egizi said. “They are unbelievable with what they do.”

Principal Sean Bevan has tried his best to manage the increased teacher absences and shortage of substitute teachers. 

“[The] lack of subs is something that’s impacting every school,” Bevan said. “Every school is struggling with filling positions. Even in a good year… we don’t have a huge number of applicants… We have been trying to be as efficient as possible by having subs in large spaces where students can get their work done.”

The substitute shortage was also a problem last year, but the amount of space available for large groups of students was different. 

“The difference last year is that the C gym was set up for lunch, so you could have a substitute teacher in there with three classes,” Bevan said. “The cafeteria is more casual…kids’ behavior in the cafeteria is not as classroom-appropriate as it was in the C gym.” 

Bevan is unsure whether students’ removal from the classroom due to the lack of substitutes is affecting their education.

“I think some of that is TBD,” Bevan said.“What’s different now than it was before is a teacher would leave an assignment, whether it be a hard copy or on the board, and now Canvas has simplified the ability to give their exact students their work. The role of the sub is different than it used to be.” 

Substitute Anne Ernest has substituted on Wednesdays through Fridays since September 2021. Ernest was a classroom teacher for 22 years and loves subbing. 

“It’s very enjoyable; I love this job,” Ernest said. “All the teachers have been responsive to my questions, and the administration is nice.”

Ernest, however, finds it harder to sub in the cafeteria or auditorium than in a classroom. 

“It is a little more confusing to make sure each student is accounted for, and it’s nearly impossible to keep students on task with what they should be doing,”  Ernest said.           

However, she empathizes with the fact that students are placed in the cafeteria or auditorium. 

“I feel badly for the students that they can’t be in their academic classroom,” Ernest said. “It doesn’t bother me, but I feel bad for the students.”

Substitute Michelle Rehill has been a sub for Algonquin since she retired as the ARHS librarian in 2017.  

As a substitute before the pandemic, Rehill said she was almost always in a classroom with one class, but lately, she has been substituting in the cafeteria and auditorium because of the number of teachers who have been out. 

Rehill has found substituting last year easier than this year.

“At the beginning of last year, when we were hybrid, it was so quiet always having that small cohort of students,” Rehill said. “I know it wasn’t best for the students only being here two days of the week, but they paid more attention and were able to stay on task.”

One of the things Rehill has found difficult has been enforcing COVID restrictions. 

“I feel very mean,” Rehill said. “I feel that I spend all day reminding students. I feel like they feel that I’m just being mean. My concern is that kids stay healthy. …I’m not angry with them. It’s a balance between being a pleasant person and making sure they’re doing what they are supposed to.”

Social studies teacher Gina Johnston has noticed the lack of subs the past few years, and she believes that not being in the classroom affects students’ education.

“I think it’s giving them more excuses to not do work left by their teachers,” Johnston said. “Because if there’s a substitute teacher in the class with them, it’s more effective, it’s more one-on-one, and they can see what the kids are doing.”

However, Johnston thinks Canvas has helped alleviate the negative impact on students. 

“I think Canvas is great,” Johnston said. “ For [my class, Understanding the Past through Film], I can say exactly what you need to do and the minute that you need to pick up watching a film. But if kids choose to do or not do it, we as teachers have no control over that, so Canvas has made leaving sub plans so much easier.”

Johnston understands that it’s hard for students to focus on their work when there is a sub. 

“We as teachers forget it’s a bonus of being a kid that you show up and your teacher isn’t there,” Johnston said. “Obviously people don’t want that… but think back to when we were kids. I loved it when I had a sub.”

Sophomore Audrey Helwig has noticed a lack of subs this year and last year, as she has been in the cafeteria and auditorium more this year than in past years.

“When I have to go to the auditorium or cafeteria, I kind of like it so I can work on other classes or just have a break from school and talk with friends,” Helwig said. 

It has been a bit of a shift for teachers, students and substitutes to use spaces like the cafeteria and auditorium for classes, but Bevan appreciates all the substitutes for their hard work. 

“I think the school would have a hard time operating without them, and they do a hard, thankless task sometimes,” Bevan said.