Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Southeast education students get early experience in the classroom

Tuesday, March 30, 2021
The tabling event held in the University Center by Cape Girardeau Public Schools. Sub Caller Deb Tracy met with students to recruit potential substitute teachers for the Spring and Fall semesters.
Photo by Matt Wagner

According to the US Department of Education, more than 40 states across the country have reported teacher shortages for the coming school year. As the nation deals with the shortage and a pandemic, some Southeast students have been working part-time in their local schools.

Chloe Sherer, sophomore family studies major, started substitute teaching in December 2020.

Sherer said she had heard her old school in Hillsboro, Illinois, had a shortage of substitute teachers, so she took her paraprofessional licensure test and applied.

Sherer said she was a little nervous on her first day. Despite the normal first-day jitters and the added complications of pandemic guidelines, Sherer said the oddest part was seeing some familiar faces as coworkers instead of authority figures.

“That was actually the elementary school that I went to, so I think the biggest thing was seeing my old teachers and being able to call them by their first name,” Sherer said.

In just a few months of working in a classroom, Sherer said she has a new understanding of the challenges other people are facing.

“There is a little boy who would show up every day in the same shirt and the same too-small pair of boots,” Sherer said. “It just kind of made me realize people are struggling, but they might not necessarily show it.”

Sherer said when she raised concerns about the student to the teacher, they were already working to help.

Sherer said it’s easy to overlook how much work, preparation and mental strain goes into teaching a class.

“As a student, you see [the teachers] give out the lesson plans and everything, but you don't see all the personal relationships that they form with the children,” Sherer said. “You don't see the stuff they take home with them.”

Sub caller for Cape Girardeau Public Schools Deb Tracy visited the Southeast campus to recruit students interested in substitute teaching now and in the fall.

“It’s been a strange year, as everyone knows, and we’ve needed lots of substitute teachers, so we have been recruiting SEMO students who are interested in part-time jobs,” Tracy said. “It pays well, and it’s very flexible with schedules; you can work full days or half days.”

Tracy said the best substitute teachers are conscientious, organized, and have a heart for kids and a sense of flexibility. She said each classroom and discipline is different, so being able to walk into a brand-new situation and be prepared takes a person with “an adventurous spirit” while being able to stay calm and controlled.

Crystal Vogler, junior elementary education major, said she’s been substitute teaching for just more than a year and also started in the elementary school she attended.

Vogler said one of her old teachers was right next door, and she was glad to have the backup close at hand.

Vogler said due to her previous experience working with kids and her college experience, she felt ready to “conquer a classroom” on her first day. She said it was her first time dealing with discipline, leading to a few bumps in the road, but she felt successful after her first day.

“I’ve always worked in daycares and schools since I’ve been in college, but since I have started working in elementary schools, I can see the teacher’s point of view,” Vogler said. “I’ve got to see how different you have to make it for every student in order to teach the lesson.”

Vogler said when going to school to become an educator, she didn't realize how much support teachers get from their peers. She said substitute teaching has changed her view of how to handle situations in which she used to think, “What would I do if this were to happen?”

“I’ve had junior-high kids just be really nasty to me, and I couldn’t have learned how to handle that situation [in the classroom]. I knew because I was subbing to go next door and grab the teacher next to me,” Vogler said.

Both Vogler and Sherer said their favorite part of the job is getting to work with the kids and being a positive presence in their lives.

For more information or to contact Cape Girardeau Public Schools about substitute teaching, visit their website.