Substitute teachers can be hard to find, especially right now. Local superintendents have told us it’s challenging to find enough subs to get them through the year. One district is finding this to be especially true for several reasons. Thankfully, a local lawmaker is stepping in to help in an unexpected way.
After months of being away, Lexy Foss is glad it’s a new school year. The pandemic has changed a few things, but the third grade teacher will tell you it feels good to be back in the classroom.
“The kids. It was really nice to get back and see them in person,” Foss said.
Even though she just got here, Foss will be out for a few months. Let’s just say an interesting school year isn’t the the only thing she’s expecting.
“I’ve only got a week and a half left before starting maternity leave,” Foss said.
Yes, Foss is pregnant. She’s not the only one.
“The first teacher revealed and then we went distant and the second teacher revealed and I sat there knowing I was pregnant but hadn’t told anybody,” Foss said. “Then the fourth teacher revealed later.”
Four pregnant teachers all due within the same month.
“First of all, it was happy news. Anytime we are going to welcome a new member of the family, that’s good news,” Tim Rhead, superintendent of the Alcester-Hudson School District, said.
Even so, it doesn’t take a math teacher to figure out that if you subtract four teachers, you need to add four long-term replacements.
“I became very worried at that point,” Rhead said. “It’s like, wow, we’re going to have to find four substitutes in a one month period,” Rhead said.
Rhead says finding subs this year is even harder due to the pandemic.
“It was never easy, but yes, it is adding to the difficulty that’s there. And, you know, it’s the fact that I think now we’ve had two or three teachers who have had to quarantine for 14 days. We’re not used to having to deal with that,” Rhead said.
Rhead found his replacements. One of them is coming from a surprising place: the State Capitol in Pierre. South Dakota Senator Jim Bolin called Rhead about being a substitute.
“He’s like, ‘Rhead,’ he always calls me Rhead. He was my teacher when I was in high school. He was like, ‘Rhead, got a little proposition for you here,'” Rhead said.
“I know there was a need. There was a class I thought I could handle reasonably. Well, so, I said let’s do this for two months,” Bolin said.
Bolin retired from teaching ten years ago, and subs every once in a while. He taught high school for more than 30 years, but filling in for 4th through 6th grade social studies is a new challenge.
“It’s different. It’s not, these are little kids and I’m kind of an old man to them,” Bolin said.
Bolin is up for re-election, and running unopposed, so that’s why he volunteered to temporarily trade in legislative bills for school books. He says it’s important for lawmakers to help their communities.
“Circumstances worked out. I didn’t have any other fundamental obligations,” Bolin said.
As for Foss, she and her co-workers are looking forward to their new additions.
“It’s been neat to be able to talk and see what similarities and difference we have,” Foss said.
Even though she’s ready to focus on family, she’s already thinking about her return. Foss says there’s just no substitute for being in the classroom.
“Teaching is hard, but it’s so rewarding. And, so, even on the toughest days you come back the next day to see the kids. The kids forget about whatever might’ve happened the next day. The kids really make it worth it,” Foss said.