Substitute teachers adapt to distance learning

Jack Bellemere, Reporter

COVID-19 has brought with it a new approach to education, and every teacher and student has had to adapt.

For substitute teachers working in several districts and lacking the personal connection to their students that full-time teachers have, the pandemic has also presented a unique set of challenges.

One of the biggest issues that substitutes said they faced was trying to make sure students are still working and learning in their classes.

Karmina Douglas

“I haven’t seen anybody… that appears to really just be doing nothing,” substitute teacher Stephen Grant said. “I think kids are plowing through this and trying to make the most of it.”

The substitutes were cautiously optimistic about the new hybrid learning plan, which the USD 497 school board voted to adopt several weeks ago. For the substitutes, it offers a chance to see students in-person and regain some of the human connection they lost over Webex.

“I have high hopes for the hybrid learning plan,” building sub Dana Tiepperman said. “I think it will be good for students to be back in the classroom… This is all new for everyone so we all have to try very hard to make it work.”

However, substitute and retired Free State teacher Linda Hyler explained that, due to health problems, she will be unable to substitute in-person with students.

Other substitutes have already expressed similar concerns, which has sparked fears of a substitute shortage. USD 497 has said that other district employees would be able to fill in for substitutes if necessary.

In the weeks before the hybrid learning plan goes into effect, however, substitute teaching during remote learning includes going to Free State, checking out a laptop, going into a classroom alone and logging into Webex from there.

While the experience can feel isolating, substitutes stressed that they were impressed with the way that students and teachers have been able to adapt to a remote learning environment, although some teachers have had to get creative with how they teach.


Karmina Douglas

“My cousin’s wife had been a professional welder doing million dollar staircases,” Hyler said. “Last year she took her first teaching job. She is [teaching] ‘welding’ with marshmallows, pretzels, [and] melted chocolate.”

Some substitutes said they missed talking to students in person.

“All the kids I had at FSHS have now graduated, so I miss seeing them in the halls and classrooms and them keeping me up on their future plans,” Hyler said.