The domino effect of teacher shortages

by: Michael Tammaro

School districts nationally and locally in Monroe County are struggling to find workers. According to the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), enrollment in education programs have decreased by 53% the past decade with about a third of teachers eligible for retirement in the next five years. This has transformed into a much bigger concern.

These numbers have been declining even before the pandemic. According to statistics, there are over 50 million US public school students and about 3.5 million teachers as of December 21, 2021. The shortage is particularly drastic in areas like mathematics, science, languages, and special education.

Pine Brook Elementary School in Greece also has a shortage of teachers specifically in the substitute teacher area.

Pine Brook Elementary School Front View. Photo by: Michael Tammaro

Janine Layne is a secretary at Pine Brook Elementary School whose job is to find people to substitute for classes. She has a pretty tough time finding substitutes considering there is barely anyone available.

“We are surviving, some days by the skin of our teeth.”

This past January, the Pine Brook had considered shutting down the school due to the struggle of finding potential substitute teachers. Two days in January, the school had 18 staff members out while another day had 16 out.

“I don’t think this issue will be solved anytime soon, but I do believe this is a COVID-19 related issue,” Layne said.

With this shortage of substitute teachers, it’s been very inconsistent with who’s supervising the students.

“With the inconsistencies of substitute teachers, it has become a major effect on the students’ learning,” Layne said.

Despite these shortages of substitute teachers, Pine Brook Elementary School has zero plans for switching to remote learning according to Layne.

“There are no talks of switching to remote learning, we want the kids in school 100%. This has been our goal since the beginning of the pandemic, we need kids in schools,” Layne said.

Layne said that one of the main problems is teaching young children how to read and write in an online learning environment.

The shortage of substitute teachers has also affected other aspects of Pine Brook significantly. Teacher’s assistants are asked to leave their positions temporarily to help fill in for the absent teachers.

“We currently have four teachers out that don’t have a sub, so I need to find someone in our building to teach those classes”, said Layne.

The entire substitute teacher shortage is like a domino effect.

“When a substitute teacher doesn’t pick a job, someone else has to”, said Layne.

With this substitute teacher shortage in Pine Brook, the school is left to wonder what else they can do. The schools are in desperate need to find workers which could lead to long-term issues.



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