Students at Monmouth College are working with local elementary and high schools to help with the state’s substitute-teacher shortage.

The state of Illinois recently created short-term substitute teaching opportunities for college students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and general teacher shortage. The opportunity will allow college students who are student-teaching in schools across the state to fill-in substitute teach when their co-operating teachers are out for the day.

It is open to teacher-licensure candidates who have at least 45 semester hours of experience.

Monmouth College was the first school in the state to respond, working with school districts in Monmouth and the surrounding area. The districts had 30 open substitute positions in November, and Monmouth college had 28 student teachers sign up to fill them.

“Over the course of about a week, week-and-a-half, we were able to get all the workshop done and the paperwork kind of done, the background checks,” said Tom Sargent, director of teacher education at Monmouth College.

The student-teachers and staff at Monmouth College think it’s a win-win. The student teachers get experience in classrooms, and schools get the help they need with substitute teaching.

“There are many days that school districts are clamoring to try to cover the needs of the classrooms, combining classrooms,” Sargent said. “I think having more individuals out there is a good thing. Hopefully it’ll help close some of the gaps that the school districts are facing.”

“I think it’s a very great opportunity for us to have local connections, because everywhere is struggling to fill that void of substitute teachers,” said Keegan Brown, a senior history major seeking teacher licensure. “With the pandemic, I haven’t had too many opportunities to get into the classroom.”

“You learn by doing, and so when you’re doing the teaching and interacting with the students, you learn what works best for you and what doesn’t work for you,” said Shepherd Coventon, a senior elementary-education major.

On top of that, these student-teachers may be the most qualified candidates for the substitute teaching positions. Erica Bossard, a senior elementary-education major, says she already had a substitute teaching-like experience before the state of Illinois created this opportunity.

“There was a sub that came in, but instead of having the sub teach, she (my co-operating teacher), said, ‘Why don’t you teach? Because you know the students, you know the expectations better than the sub would,'” Bossard said.

This substitute teaching opportunity for Monmouth College students and other college students across the state of Illinois will last until June 2023, unless the state extends it. All of the student-teachers are thankful for the opportunity, especially because it’s their last year in college.

“It’s a great connection-builder for me to get to know communities around here. I want to stick around here after I graduate,” Brown said.