BY KAREN CAMPBELL
Weakley County Schools Communications Director
WEAKLEY COUNTY (September 1) – No one suggests it’s an easy gig. Responding to an early morning, abrupt change to the day can feel unpredictable. Entering a classroom of unfamiliar faces (half of which you possibly can’t see because of masks) is daunting. But for each reason to keep a substitute teacher from stepping up and filling in, Weakley County Schools has nearly 4,000 reasons to do so.
“With 10 schools and nearly 4,000 students we will need substitute teachers fairly regularly during a normal year,” said Randy Frazier, Director of Weakley County Schools. “But this year, when we are facing two-week quarantines for anyone who has direct contact with the virus, we are anticipating an even greater need.”
A sentiment that Jeff Kelley, Assistant Director of Schools, underscored as he addressed a small group gathered for substitute teacher training Tuesday, September 1.
“We are in desperate need of substitute teachers – good ones. We’ve already heard stories from our schools of not being able to cover the need,” he noted, as he encouraged those present to encourage others to join their ranks.
The manner in which the substitute teacher program shifts into gear differs according to schools. In high schools, the first substitute, usually an educational assistant already at the facility, is the first call. At elementary and middle schools, the teacher who needs his/her class covered may enlist a substitute from a list provided or another staff member may be contacted in order to seek out the approved substitute.
Substitute teacher training – which covers procedures, routines, lesson plans, behavior and disciplines, ethics, and a general safety overview along with a look at the COVID-19 response – is less than two hours. Usually drawing 12-15, this orientation saw only five participating.
Kelley points to the pandemic as the reasons offered by existing subs who have not returned to the classrooms this year. Many are retired teachers and at what is considered a vulnerable age for the virus.
Still, some are returning … and discovering they have lessons yet to learn as well.
“I said I’d never teach middle school,” said Sharon resident Betsy Robinson, retired after 30+ years of teaching at Dresden Elementary.
“And my first two assignments were middle school … and I LOVED it!” she proclaimed, deeming it a “great experience” and one to which she is ready to return.
Preasley Yates, a graduate of Dresden High School and a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin, said the only thing he fears as a substitute is, “I’d end up failing the students, of not being as good as I want to be.”
Asked for encouraging words that might nudge the potential substitute teacher to take the next step and apply, Yates and Robinson represented the beginning and closing of a career in education but a shared response.
“I was called to teach something somewhere somehow. If you want to mentor and educate students by all means go for it,” Yates said.
“It’s been my life. It’s fun for me. It’s in my soul,” offered Robinson. “And if you love helping others and children, this is the job for you.”
To apply or for more information, call 731-364-2247 or email Sheryl.Cavin@wcsk12tn.net. Substitute teachers must pass a background check. Payment is $100 a day for certified teachers and $75 a day for those who are not licensed.