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'Everything Is Trial By Fire': Newly Graduated Teachers Bring E-Learning Experience To Classroom

Spencer Tritt

During the pandemic, schools are seeing a significant teacher shortage, especially a lack of substitutes. They typically see a surge of subs and new teachers in January as winter graduates enter the job market.

But in 2021, it’s unclear if that boost will come for Illinois schools suffering staff shortages due to COVID-19.

Taylor Leach just graduated with a master’s in education at Northern Illinois University. She was one of the few in her program who didn’t have a teaching license, so she just finished up her student teaching at Kingston Elementary in Genoa, maneuvering the school’s remote and in-person schedule.

“Our phrase of getting through any and everything this semester was ‘everything is trial by fire.’ Because you can plan and plan and plan, but we never know. And that's how it is in the classroom anyway, right?” she said.

One-third of Illinois educators are considering leaving the field because of the pandemic, according to a survey from the Illinois Education Association. But Leach said her trial by fire student teaching experience reaffirmed her commitment to the classroom.

“Realizing how important that was for the kids and that they still had people consistently pushing to love on them and care for them and teach them during this time, if anything made me more stubborn to put my foot down and say ‘Nope, we're doing this I'm getting through this semester so I can get in the classroom,’” said Leach.

Other recent education grads are choosing to wait till fall to apply for full-time jobs in hopes the pandemic is receding by then.

Leach is jumping right into her career, starting to sub while she looks for early childhood openings.  Many schools plan to return at least partially in-person in January. But, if COVID case counts spike again, Leach and many other new teachers may start their career subbing remote classes.