I recently had an opportunity to ask a teacher “how are you doing?” Her immediate response was, “great, it is wonderful to see children every day.” She quickly added, “Dr. Yennie, I am glad that we are in school.” There was absolute joy in her response, and even though I could not see her smile, her eyes told the story.

We take our mission to heart—teachers genuinely care for children and enjoy teaching and being around children.  ACSD#1 is taking care of the children during this pandemic, and I know our teachers are proud to say they serve an essential role in taking care of our present as we educate for the future. This pandemic crisis presents an unwelcome, but nonetheless, amazing opportunity to serve our community, and the school district is proud to do our part to keep our community safe and take care of the children.

At last night’s board meeting, I was reminded of the joy of teaching and why teachers tell me, “it is wonderful to see children every day.” The school board celebrated the Girls Swimming State Championship and the Volleyball State Championship, and I saw that same expression of absolute joy on the faces of the students (I could also see smiles since we were on a Zoom video conference). I thought back to my time as a high school teacher and the enjoyment I felt being around young people—students always brightened my day, and last night, I was reminded once again how teachers feel every day. We have a glorious job.

Our community has increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases, but schools continue to be one the safest places for our students and staff. Unfortunately, we are struggling to ensure that we have our outstanding teachers in every classroom every day. With the increase in cases in our county, our employees have been affected either by being in close contact with a positive case, or needing to be isolated because they have tested positive for COVID-19. In these instances, we immediately follow CDC and local health orders and ask our employees to quarantine for 14 days. We have implemented contingencies for filling in when our employees need to be isolated at home, but we have a significant need for qualified substitute teachers who can assist when we have teachers out of the classroom for 14 days.

The following graph shows the number of employee requests that we have received for Federal COVID-19 Leave (up to 80 hours) during the past two months. We have had a steep upward trend during the past two weeks, and that has required the need for additional substitutes in our buildings. The same phenomenon is affecting our community as well. Early Tuesday morning I heard that 10 of the substitutes in our pool recently tested positive, and six more (UW students) returned home, so they can remain healthy to student teach in the Spring.

Substitute Training

Most of the substitutes we have hired during the past have come from UW education students, but this year many students have not been on campus or available to substitute. We have expanded our reach, but the traditional requirement of 60 hours of college credit to receive a substitute teaching certificate is too difficult or time consuming for some people to get a certificate. With new guidance from the Professional Teaching Standards Board, the school district will be implementing a training program for substitutes which is an alternative path to substitute certification. We will have additional details shortly, but if you are interested and want to help in the classroom, please send us an email at info@acsd1.org to inquire how you can receive substitute training and certification.  We look forward to helping you experience the joy we feel every day.