Substitutes Tackle the Pandemic

Leena Omer, Guest Writer

According to the Guardian, demand for substitute teachers is at an all-time high across the country, yet another supply-and-demand struggle brought on by the pandemic. This sub shortage has also affected our very own community at Athens Academy.

Dee Ward, the Upper School administrative assistant, works to supply our classrooms with substitutes to cover teacher  absences. After prospective substitutes fill out the application form on the Athens Academy website, Ward gets in touch with the applicant and arranges an interview with Upper School Director Susan Zalac. 

“We like to have about five to seven qualified subs that we can count on,” Ward says.

Finding people at the height of the pandemic was a feat because there weren’t enough people to come on campus and many  thought they should stay away from social environments. 

Brett Odom, a substitute at Athens Academy, recognizes that there’s been an increased demand.  After some years in the substituting game, he acknowledges that there’s “a lot to juggle.” 

When finding outside substitutes proves difficult, absent teachers have been fortunate that  their colleagues can often fill in for them. 

“Multiple teachers would be out at the same time and we never had that problem here, so we’re really lucky,” Ward says.

After subbing for math teacher Mike Salvia during his paternity leave earlier this year,  and after long-term subbing for  art teacher Luke Graves, Odom is used to being around people during a pandemic and “having to come and put on a mask.” He is also substituting for math teacher Cristina Carrigan during her maternity leave. 

With several teachers having to stay out from either quarantining or even having COVID, Odom has ended up substituting in classes with the same students. Because of that, he’s gotten the chance to form bonds with some of them. Seeing them repeatedly has given him the opportunity to get to know students well.

According to the latest eSpartan, monthly COVID case counts are down. Adding to the good news, Ward believes that the need for subs due to the Omicron has slowed. 

Even with the challenges going on, Odom loves being in the classroom. Watching the art students’ progress was especially rewarding. 

 “It’s just been wonderful to watch,” Odom says. “Sometimes (the students) are funny, sometimes they’re ridiculous, but they’re always fun to be around.”