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One woman aims to help substitute teacher shortage

Debbie Critchfield is back in the classroom at Oakley High school as a substitute teacher
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 4:58 PM MDT
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OAKLEY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — A shortage of substitute teachers is impacting schools nationwide, and that includes right here in Southern Idaho. So much so that after nearly 20 years away, one Magic Valley woman returned to the classroom in order to help her local school. She said the experience left her with even more respect for teachers.

Debbie Critchfield returned to Oakley High school. It was a full-circle moment, as it was this position that spurred her love for education nearly 20 years ago.

“I recall the very first day that I did this. I sat out in my car and I thought ‘what have I done to myself,’ but after that first day, it was such a great experience and I really felt that satisfaction of connecting with students,” said Critchfield.

Critchfield returned amidst what is a substitute teaching crisis. One which heavily impacts schools in rural areas like Oakley.

“I wanted to contribute to my hometown and to the needs that we have. We want kids to be in school, but if we don’t have the adults there, then that’s not going to be able to happen,” said Critchfield.

In one day, Critchfield taught classes on history, government, anthropology, and choir. While she enjoyed the variety, she said it underscores the importance of trained educators who are experts in their fields.

“The teacher is the most important part of the school day. Teachers have been the consistent thread over the last 18 months on the connection between learning and students,” she said.

Critchfield said it was important for her to engage the students early and try to make each lesson a meaningful experience for her students.

“I think it’s really important to invite the conversation and create an environment where the students trust you,” she said.

One of the biggest differences Critchfield found between teaching now compared to her past experience was the usage of technology in the classroom.

“I was nervous about how I was going to get the projector to work. Technology has changed so much over the past 20 years,” she said. “Teachers go and they learn about the subject, but you also have to learn about the operations of a classroom.”

While Critchfield hopes others follow in her footsteps and sub at their local schools, she said finding more substitute teachers is only step one.

“Substitutes are a short-term fix, but how we recognize, acknowledge and support the teacher tells our students and our communities that we value the job that they’re doing,” she said.

More information on how to become a substitute teacher for the Cassia County School District can be found here.

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