LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It's a question school districts are having to ask as they plan their return to the classroom. Will they have enough teachers?
Kelly Services is one of the top recruiters in education. A survey back in January found 8 percent of the nation’s 3.2 million public school teachers are absent on an average school day. That's about 250,000 positions that need to be filled by substitute teachers. Yet, most schools said they were able to cover just 54 percent of those absences.
The pandemic has only made those problems worse for some districts who are back in the classroom.
Radio host for 106.9 Play, Jesse Ras, wanted to do his part to help.
"For me, Monday I signed up, and Thursday I was in the classroom," said Ras. "I've had two districts in Kentucky reach out to me and one or two in Indiana ask if I'd sign up for them as well."
He has a Communication degree from IU Southeast and an On Camera Acting certification from the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, but Ras never imagined he'd be head of the classroom.
His wife is a teacher, who recently returned to school. He knew the risks and the stresses they face everyday and how the pandemic has only enhanced them.
Across the country, students are coming back to class, but there aren't always enough teachers to manage them. That's when Ras had a serious conversation with his wife.
"We had discussions about it and at the end of the day, we had faith the people she works for and the people taking care of our kids are doing the best they can. There's always a risk but you do your best," Ras said.
Ras only needed a high school diploma to get things rolling.
"For better for worse, the requirements in a lot of districts to be a sub aren't what people thought," Ras said.
Each school employer will determine its own screening, employment qualifications, and performance standards for its substitute teachers.
Ras got certified through the state of Indiana and passed a background check, and within days, was standing in a classroom full of first graders.
"I probably studied harder for that first day of subbing than I did for any test in school," Ras said.
He admits he didn't have all the answers, but at the end of the day, he thinks he made a difference.
"It's definitely something I know I'm not going to be rich doing," said Ras. "I do it because I care about educators. I care about kids. And shoot, 2020. How helpless have we felt throughout this entire time? It's not like I can volunteer to go to the hospital and deal with Covid patients but I can volunteer to help alleviate some of the stress of educators. I'm quasi-qualified to do that. It's personally helped me feel a little bit better."
Ras said he plans to spread the wealth, and sub in multiple districts. He says signing up for them can be tedious, since most districts use their own systems to recruit subs.
If he had any tips to offer, he says, get multiple copies of your background check once you pass, so you don't have to keep paying the same fee for each district. Getting certified by the state is a small cost as well, about $16.
You can find full-time and part-time sub positions for teachers, food service, custodial work, etc. For Kentucky certification, click here.
Great Clark County schools are looking for substitutes who can work any number of days. If you're interested in being a sub at Great Clark, contact Nicole Curry with the school system via email Ncurry@gccschools.com or by phone at (812)850-1204.