BOISE, Idaho — Amber Alexander is a Boise State University teacher student completing her clinical teaching hours between West Junior High School and Grace Jordan Elementary School. She’s in her senior year and plans to graduate in December. Her passion is education.
“Really like to get to the bare bones of it, that’s our future right there. I want to be part of helping that come into fruition," Alexander said.
Alexander and dozens of BSU student teachers from the College of Education teaching program are helping lift the burden on schools experiencing a staff shortage.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the need for substitute teachers. Illness and quarantines have further strained a longtime shortage of educators in Idaho which interrupts instruction time with some schools and even entire districts that have had to temporarily close.
“There is a substitute teacher shortage, this year in particular, and with confounding factors with the pandemic and everything else it’s hard to find a substitute, "said Dr. Jennifer Snow Interim Dean, College of Education. "When our student-teacher candidates are in the building they offer up, volunteers, or were pulled into different classrooms in different teaching situations."
BSU staff said that normally the teaching program allows a student to be assigned to one classroom and mentor, but realizing the need for some the school districts struggling finding workers. The education department adapted to be flexible for students to assist where needed and if available.
“Making sure it’s a simultaneous beneficial relationship for the schools and for our student teachers, so they are learning so much,” Snow said.
Shannon Nicholson is teaching a combination of fourth and fifth graders this year at Grace Jordan Elementary School, she also serves as BSU liaison and mentors the student candidates as they get their teaching experience before graduating.
“The student teachers that we have here, have been super flexible and willing to help in any capacity, they help with lunch duties, they do recess duties, they sub for teachers that are out in the building so classes have a teacher's present.”
Nicholson also created a scheduling system to let her seven BSU students know where they will be assigned to do for the day.
Alexander plans to apply for a teaching position in the valley after her graduation in December. She's grateful BSU administrators have been understanding and accommodating to student teachers' needs.
She's also glad to be part of the effort to provide support to schools during this trying time.
“I would say everybody in the community wants to make sure the schools stay open; We all want the best for their children and we get the opportunity to make that happened," Alexander said.