Nationwide substitute teacher shortage squeezes Bangor School District, too

BANGOR, Wis. (WKBT) — The nationwide substitute teacher shortage was intensified by the pandemic, and it’s being felt especially hard in rural districts.

For example, in the Bangor School District, the number of substitutes available often does not meet demand.

Amy Cropp, who has substituted for K-12 in the Bangor district for six years, said, “To start, it was more of a competition for a job.”

This year, she’s been in the classroom nearly every day with no competition at all. Amid the shortage, teachers for special subjects such as art sometimes have hopped in to fill classroom spots, too.

“I can walk in the door assigned to one position and that can totally be scrapped and I can go to a different one,” Cropp said.

Elementary Principal Michael Johnson knows that people like Cropp are essential in rural areas such as Bangor. Many of the current substitutes are retired teachers or parents in the school district.

“Our subs are basically extended Bangor family — their children go to school here and they happen to have licenses to teach, or those types of things, to help us out,” Johnson said.

Especially now. Johnson says he’s spoken with other area principals who are facing the same problem.

“At the end of the day, there’s just nobody there to entice to do it. And other small districts are the same way we are,” Johnson said.

Though Bangor has offered incentives, such as paying for substitutes to get certified, it’s been difficult to get people on board.

This isn’t just a problem at Bangor — it’s hitting districts nationwide. And it comes at a price.

“Having a high quality substitute teacher to fill in for a day or two or sometimes longer periods of time is extremely important if you want to maintain that level of learning in the classroom,” said Steph Wagner, the instructional services director for CESA 4 in Western Wisconsin.

Despite offering a 16-hour online certification class, CESA 4 is getting fewer substitute candidates within the region than it would hope for. This affects area districts from big to small.

“The hard part on our end is the kids show up every day,” Johnson said, and those students need someone to show up for them.

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