Central staff pitch in by going back to the classroom as subs
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges to schools and districts as they try to provide instruction to hundreds of thousands of students, and one of the hardest to overcome has been the number of teacher absences due to illness or quarantine. Dallas ISD has been able to keep instruction going thanks, in part, to central staff pitching in as substitute teachers in schools across the district.
More than 90 staff in the Teaching and Learning division, 65 School Leadership instructional lead coaches, and almost two dozen staff members in Human Capital Management put aside their daily tasks to go back into the classroom either a day or two or five per week when the number of absences were at their highest.
For Kaitlyn Reneson, an ESL curriculum instructional specialist, going back to the classroom reignited her passion for helping students learn because the experience reminded her of why she got into education.
“Teachers were using their planning periods to sub for other teachers, doing everything to make sure students were learning,” Reneson said. “There’s something about being in it together. You say you understand but subbing for a day really makes you see that we need to be in this together. If a campus needs you, you go.”
Reneson has spent five days substituting at an elementary school—outside of her usual classroom experience in high school. Her colleague, Fernel Gonzalez, a dual language campus support coordinator, also saw first-hand the level of stress teachers and campus administrators have been under to work tirelessly to bring students up to speed under trying circumstances.
And he agreed: “We need to have each other’s backs because we need to work together to help the students.”
The instructional coaches from School Leadership have been substituting within the clusters they serve daily. Where they had more than one campus, the team divided and conquered, said Felicia Gray, director of Instructional Lead Coaches. And in schools that needed additional support due to double-digit absences, several coaches were assigned.
“While maintaining instructional support for students was paramount, they not only covered classrooms,” Gray said. “They also worked as front office staff, parking lot greeters, lunch duty monitors and any other roles needed for the campus.”
For all the central staff who worked as substitutes, their regular responsibilities and deadlines did not go away. But none minded putting in extra hours to catch up because they knew that what they were doing was crucial for students, said Mayra Rangel, a dual language campus support instructional specialist, who has also spent time substituting.
“It is worth it,” Rangel said. “We stayed open when other districts had to close down. This proves that we are a united front.”