INDIANAPOLIS — Heroes are needed to help our kids in the classroom as instructional assistants.
Prior to the pandemic, the need was great for substitute teachers, and now between COVID-19, contact tracing, and quarantines, the need to fill these roles is growing even more.
"The days are gone when the substitute teacher used to come in and sit at the desk and read a book and a newspaper, and the kids would have a packet of work to keep them busy," says Josephine Brewington, a permanent substitute teacher for Beech Grove City Schools. "That's not the case anymore."
Brewington says subs play a much bigger role in the educational process now more than ever. She has 10 years of experience and is a permanent sub, meaning she reports to Beech Grove City Schools every day and goes where she is needed.
"As a permanent sub, I just know that I'm going to get to work every day, so someone who doesn't have a job right now, it's a great opportunity for them," says Brewington. "Also, the pay, the pay has been wonderful right now. I have schools that I've seen listed that are paying double what they were paying when I started."
Brewington herself stepped into this role after working as an administrative assistant. Her husband was retiring, and she wanted to continue to work in a position that offered a lot of flexibility so they could travel. She also has a passion for learning, as someone who started working on her degree in Education but could not finish it. Now she logs into Canvas each day and helps teach students when they are in-person or learning virtually from home in this global pandemic.
"They need substitutes so bad that when I started, it wasn't a day or two; it was always every day the school was open I was subbing," says Brewington. "And I love it."
She says prior to the pandemic, she moved around classrooms each day, but in the months since the pandemic, she often stays in one classroom as teachers are out for extended periods. Currently, Beech Grove City Schools are entirely virtual due to the public health order from Marion County.
But she says one of the perks of this job is she gets to work directly with the students and worry less about lesson planning and grading. She also has the flexibility to where if she can't work everyday, she does not have to, and she can do it for as long as she wants so that it could be a great opportunity for a Hoosier in a layoff period due to the virus.
Brewington wants people to know that coming in the doors of Beech Grove City Schools, no matter her assignment that day, she feels safe.
"Retirees, I know with the pandemic, they are worried. They are worried about coming in and getting sick. We have our masks that we have to put on every single day. The kids are wonderful," says Brewington. "We have our hand sanitizer, ya know, we are cleaning, the kids are washing their hands, we are trying to be so safe because teachers don't want to get sick too."
Brewington has seen firsthand the imp[act a substitute can have on the learning process. She says she has seen college students who are aspiring teachers getting time in front of a classroom before even graduating. Some college students are getting experience teaching in a pandemic, which is priceless in the job hunt. She has seen professionals like accountants come in to teach math courses. She has also seen a pilot engaging students sharing stories about taking flight.
"Even if you don't have any teaching background, those lifetime experiences can help you in the classroom with the kids," says Brewington.
Brewington is seeing her schools confirm what industry leaders are seeing in Indiana and across the country.
Brad Beckner is the VP of Operations for the northeast for Kelly Education. It is a company that provides instructional assistants and support to schools across the country, including 30 districts across the state of Indiana.
Kelly Education fills more than 120-thousand positions annually here, helping to close the educational system gap. Kelly Education can cast a wider net for recruitment and partner with the schools to connect Hoosiers to jobs as instructional assistants and other support staff.
Beckner says in this pandemic, the need is great, but they are seeing people step up to the task.
"We're seeing a renewed interest of our heroes are coming in to assist," says Beckner. "We're seeing individuals that are in a job search that are taking on opportunities of substitute teaching. One of the nice things about being a substitute teacher is that is can be at your schedule."
Beckner says the amount of commitment is up to the person in the substitute teaching position, and he is excited to see displaced workers be able to fill these roles in both the short and long-term for our schools.
"This is a noble profession," says Beckner. "This is so very important and critical to the education of our youth."
Beckner says instructional assistants in our state must have 60 credit hours or an Associates Degree, but that does not need to be in the educational field. They also work with support staff in cafeterias, administration, and transportation who do not need to meet the same credit hour requirements and also have many in-demand spots to fill.
He says most school districts have information on how to connect with them on their website, and as for becoming a substitute teacher through Kelly Education, you can call 812-238-9249 or visit kellyeducation.com.