Estevan Vidaurri has a few reasons why substitute teaching works for him.

“The hours are nice, you don’t work weekends, you get summers off, I don’t know what else you need,” said Vidaurri, a substitute teacher in the Mesa Unified School District.

East Valley school districts have been offering substitute teachers a higher pay during the pandemic due to a shortage of teachers.

Lisa Gibson, talent management executive director for the Kyrene Unified School District, said they raised the daily pay rate for substitutes this year from $115 a day to $175.

“I am hoping the worst is behind us. It has been a very challenging year, but I feel we are moving forward and our daily absences are manageable,” Gibson said.

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With COVID-19 numbers dropping, Gibson said the number of sick employees has dropped significantly. The district had days with 170 employees out sick and now the number has decreased to about 70 to 80 employees out sick a day she said.

Vidaurri said subs are being expected to teach either through zoom or in-person and follow the new COVID-19 guidelines, which has made it stressful.

In addition, Vidaurri said a few teachers plan on leaving or quitting education entirely simply because it’s becoming too stressful to be a teacher during COVID-19, even with numbers going down.

“We sent an email out to all our teachers back in December, we had over 100 applicants for substitute teachers, so they were willing to be part of that solution as well,” said Terry Locke, director of community relations for the Chandler Unified School District.

“These poor students kind of didn’t have very much structure, it was kind of just like worksheet after worksheet, I don’t really know if they were being taught anything new,” Vidaurri said.

Vidaurri said there were times where they had to combine classes and split one classroom into two different classrooms.

“Students who usually have never been in that setting are now put into an entirely new environment because we didn’t have a substitute to cover,” Vidaurri said.

Gibson said they have been very lucky this past week, with fill rates, when substitutes are able to cover positions in need of a substitute, being the highest they have been since the pandemic. Fill rates being 88-100% as of Feb. 10.

“We’ve always had work for the smallest positions, substitute teaching, bus drivers, our teachers aid, those are jobs we just have to continue to work hard to fill, they don’t happen naturally,” Locke said.

Vidaurri said it’s important for these students to just have structure in a time of uncertainty to know that they have at least an educator who’s going to be in their room, who’s going to teach them and help them grow.

We greatly value our substitutes and we were happy we could raise the daily rate of pay for them this year,” Gibson said.

That’s good news to Locke.

“Our staff [has] been patient with it and our families as well, got through a tough time,” Locke said.

Vidaurri recommends applying for a substitute job.

“You might find that you love it and maybe you want to take a path toward education, you never know,” Vidaurri said.