Substitute teacher shortage hits Mission Hills’ classrooms

Many teachers and students are feeling concern and stress due to the consistent shortage of substitute teachers.


Photo by Aryanna Martinez

Due to a limited number of teachers and subs, some students are taken to the library.

San Marcos Unified School District (SMUSD) and other districts across the nation have been experiencing teacher shortages, ultimately affecting students’ academic performance. Numerous classes this school year have been taken to the theater or library for study hall periods when limited or no substitutes are available.
“I think that it is [stressful] for both teachers and students when there are no substitutes. When my classes get taken down to the library it can sometimes be hard to concentrate, and sometimes I just don’t have any work to do and I sit there, and that work is made up later, putting more stress on me,” senior Layla Azhar said.
Substitute teacher shortages are nothing new and have been a persistent issue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The increased student population at Mission Hills High School and concurrent decrease in staff members have resulted in inconveniences for the school as a whole. To try and combat the issue, campus supervisors walk multiple classes down to the library and the amphitheater to be watched by a single substitute or a teacher available.
“It is our last resort to remove a class from their classroom, but sometimes it needs to happen so that all students are properly supervised,” said Jillian Ryan, Assistant Principal.
At Mission Hills, campus supervisors are responsible for maintaining student’s safety and behavior outside of the classroom. Campus supervisors are prohibited from watching classes as they aren’t certificated, meaning they don’t hold a California teaching credential. SMUSD has several requirements for substitutes among them having a credential (or 30-day Emergency Sub Permit) and fingerprint clearance through two different agencies.
“As the ceramics teacher I really try to be here. If I’m really sick and don’t come last minute, I usually have a couple of substitutes that I have their number. I always try to line up my own subs because I feel that if I don’t my kids won’t be able to do ceramics,” said Cari Jean Nelson, Ceramics teacher.
The national average pay for substitute teachers is $127 per day. While SMUSD pays above average at $165 per day, it is not enough compensation for watching multiple classes at once, all ranging from 30 to 40 students each. Many substitutes also choose to work in higher paying districts as SMUSD is the lowest paying out of all of San Diego county; Escondido Union School District pays substitutes $185 per day and San Diego Unified School District pays $180 per day. This lack of competitive pay for substitute teachers drives potential applicants to other districts.
“The workload depends on the class, sometimes you get a class that doesn’t need a lot of managing and I can just do my work along with them, but sometimes it can interfere if you are subbing for a class that needs a lot of attention,” said Ulises Ruiz, substitute teacher.
Other teachers are allowed to cover classes for each other during their prep periods and be compensated for their time. However, many teachers have declined to give up their free period needing the break for themselves between teaching to recharge, prepare for another period or family obligations. This absence of teacher presence and lack of substitutes overall affects morale around campus and has put more pressure on students to make up work that couldn’t be completed properly during class time due to lack of a proper substitute or place to work.
“As a former teacher myself, I know the impact this is having on our students and their teachers. I also see the impact that this shortage has on our office staff, our campus supervisors, our library staff, and other classified staff members,” said Jillian Ryan, Assistant Principal. “We truly appreciate what everyone is doing to help alleviate our challenges, and I hope that students can appreciate whomever is watching over them that day. Try your best to get your assignments done, ask for help if you need it, and encourage your peers to do the same.”