Nationwide substitute teacher shortage impacting SASD


Noah Barro

Students prepare for math class.

Every school district goes through tough times, but in the end, the hope is that the students and staff grow from the challenging experiences and ultimately make their world a better place.

The Stroudsburg Area School District is no exception.  Covid-19 has created all sorts of challenges for all employees and students.

One major issue has been the need for more substitute teachers — for a variety of reasons. Many teachers are sick and need time to heal. Also, many teachers have retired. “There was already a growing substitute shortage before COVID-19,” according to a recent article in the York Daily Record.

This crisis is not just happening in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  All across the country, the number of teachers out for various reasons has increased significantly.  One unfortunate result is that students are more often losing out on being taught by qualified, certified educators.

At Stroudsburg High School, the problem is palpable.

“Before COVID-19 probably 6-8 teachers a day would be out, less than 10%,” said SHS principal Mr. Jeffrey Sodl. “Now, after COVID-19, we’ve had up to 25% of our teachers out. There were 16-18 teachers out at times.”

Sodl indicated that some teachers have been out for COVID-19 reasons, but others have been out for a variety of personal reasons.

When teachers are going to be absent, the process of getting a substitute replacement is typically not really difficult.

Now, after COVID-19, we’ve had up to 25% of our teachers out. There were 16-18 teachers out at times.

— Jeffery Sodl

 Ms. Jena Gmelch, the SHS principal’s secretary explained: “Teachers select a day they need/want off in and a website called AESOP will alert the subs of possible availability.” 

Substitute teachers have the option to decline shifts and/or school if they don’t want to accept a shift.

This sounds pretty straightforward, but it has been quite challenging during the pandemic, which has been one of the most difficult times ever to find willing substitute teachers. Fearing the Covid-19 factor, many daily substitute teachers have chosen not to enter the school environment.

When substitute teachers are present at the high school, Gmelch can call on them to cover classes in a pinch.  This year, that has been nearly impossible.  The result is that full-time teachers are running all over the building covering classes during their free periods.

English teacher Ms. Jamie Marra suggested an idea that may, at least temporarily, solve the substitute shortage problem — to some degree anyway.

But we have raised our pay, and we are advertising as well.

— Jeffery Sodl

“Work with local colleges and universities to have students who have completed a certain number of credits share their time to be subs,” said Marra.  This idea may benefit the students at SHS, as well as the college students who would get actual classroom experience.

The district is actively trying to hire more hiring more substitute teachers. 

“It’s hard to get people when fast-food jobs are paying $20 an hour,” said Sodl. “But we have raised our pay, and we are advertising as well.”

Sodl emphasized that the SASD administration is committed to providing its students with a quality education.

Read more about this nationwide substitute shortage below: