LETTERS: Substitute teaching

Gena Rieck

To the editor:

After reading Pat Proctor’s letter to the editor Friday, Nov. 20, I feel the need to respond.

I taught in Kansas for 34 years before retiring in 2008. I know kids learn better in school. I know teachers want to be in school. Even when teachers need to be out of their classrooms, there are lesson plans that need to be written, materials assembled and organized, along with notes to the substitute to ensure learning takes place during their absence. Believe me, it is easier for a teacher to be in school than out on leave.

I do not commend the Leavenworth Board of Education for ignoring Dr. Roth’s recommendation to switch to remote learning beginning Nov. 30 until the end of the first semester, approximately three weeks.

Mr. Proctor states that as of last Wednesday, not a single person in the state of Kansas under 17 years old had died of COVID-19. I hope that never happens and certainly do not want that used for criteria for how schools operate.

My main purpose in writing, however, is to address Mr. Proctor’s description of what it takes to substitute in Kansas. He encouraged the community to go to the KSDE website and apply for an emergency substitute license. “It takes five minutes,” he wrote.

Knowing school districts everywhere are in desperate need of substitutes, I renewed my license in September. It takes more than five minutes.

There is a much simpler way to help keep our schools open and safe. Wear a mask. Social distance. Wash your hands.

I have been a substitute in all three elementary schools since September. I am amazed at everything schools are being asked to do in addition to what schools have always been doing to ensure the best learning experience for those children entrusted to them. I’ll name just a few: temperature screenings, mask monitoring, social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing. Do you know how long it takes for 20-plus kindergarteners to wash their hands effectively?

What I have also witnessed is the professionalism, teamwork and positive attitude of everyone I have come in contact with to make sure the children in their care are safe, loved and learning. I have had administrators, paraprofessionals, kitchen, custodial and technology staff stop by and ask if I need anything. I have had teachers give up their own planning time to help me make the day be the best day possible for the children under my watch.

USD 453 employees, you have my utmost respect and admiration. Thank you. Take care. Stay Safe.

Mr. Proctor, perhaps one day soon we will meet “in the trenches” since you have applied to be a substitute teacher.