WKU student teachers aid as substitutes in staffing shortages

BOWLING GREEN, Ky.- The COVID-19 pandemic has caused staffing shortages within schools throughout the commonwealth. Western Kentucky University student teachers are working to fix that. 

The Educational Professional Standards Board approved a motion that student teachers can substitute within Kentucky if they apply to be an emergency substitute teacher. 

The student teachers can then aid in these absences, which can either be a couple of days to fill in or a longer period of time. 

“Most of those substitute teachers are a lot of times retired educators who kind of fall in that more susceptible category, I guess due to COVID, and then it’s a win win for our students because they kind of get a lot better experience, or unique experience that they become that lead teacher without that mentor teacher in the room with them,” said WKU department head Stephanie Martin. 

The student teachers will also get paid for their time as a substitute – a positive for many who had to quit their other jobs to take on the extra hours. 

“In semesters past, this has not been a thing, Kentucky has been struggling to find substitutes so it’s been a really great learning experience to be able to do that this semester,” said WKU student teacher Madison Cottrell. 

Cottrell was the first student teacher for the program, and is currently substitute teaching in a kindergarten and first grade classroom. 

“I am really excited. Yesterday I actually subbed for the first time in person by myself and so I really got to understand classroom management better because that’s something when you’re with another teacher you don’t have to worry about it as much because you have another set of eyes watching at all times,” said Cottrell. 

People in the program said they hope it continues even when the pandemic ends.