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Michigan's substitute teacher shortage could be worsened by COVID-19

An education funding bill passes in the House.
Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio
TeachingWorks aims develop a nationwide system for all teaching programs, so that teachers are prepared the minute they walk into the classroom.

Michigan schools could face an even worse substitute teacher shortage because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state released guidelines last month outlining students’ return to in-person learning in classrooms, which specifies face coverings and physical distancing requirements.

Now, with the possibility of more teachers missing school due to COVID-19, organizations who train substitute teachers are having to adapt.

Lezlie Soda is with EDUStaff, a company in Grand Rapids that trains and staffs out substitute teachers to school districts around the state. 

“We do anticipate that there could be a greater need in the fall than there typically is, and all we can do is just continue to partner with our districts, come alongside them, and work with our substitutes to do the best we can to get them in the classroom and keep them healthy.”

“The best thing districts can do is to create a COVID plan that makes that substitute feel like they are part of the team and part of the building and the district, even if it’s just for that day, and to be proactive in having prepared for that substitute coming in.”

According to Soda, EDUStaff sent a survey out to 17,000 substitutes, to which they received 6,400 responses. Of the 6,400, 78% of those said they would return to substitute teaching in the fall. Of the 78%, 89% said they'd prefer to be physically in the classroom, and 84% said they would be willing to be trained to teach virtually.

As a result, Soda says EDUStaff has created training materials for teachers interested in substituting in a remote learning environment. 

“We’re trying to keep it simple. The kind of training we’re talking about is like Google Classroom, Google Docs, Blackboard; those types of interactive software that a teacher and a student would be using,” she says. "So we’re hoping that by having this available, that those who are truly interested in virtual substituting can access those resources.”

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Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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