NAHS Takes Nationwide Teacher Shortage Head On


Samantha Fleming

Junior Ava Tomasovich shows off her online “substitute” for a substitute teacher.

Despite the beginning of a new year, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on school systems continue to be apparent throughout the country. While past challenges have been overcome, such as full-time remote learning, a new challenge has emerged. Each year, the pool of new and returning teachers shrinks, leaving schools to find new strategies to accommodate students and teachers. North Atlanta is certainly not immune to the effects of the pandemic or the teacher shortage issue. 

Fortunately, NAHS Principal Curtis Douglass is taking a proactive approach to address the dwindling supply of qualified teachers. Douglass, who has worked at North Atlanta for the past ten years, has already implemented two solutions: online classes instead of substitute teachers when appropriate and an improved approach to hiring teachers. Douglass acknowledges that though online learning may not be for everyone, it is sometimes the best alternative to ensure that students are taught the curriculum and receive the required support. He also explained that the key to finding great teachers for North Atlanta is to start the search earlier and look for teachers with a proven track record. “We are trying to do all we can to hire the best possible teachers,” he said.

As Douglass mentioned, online classes can prove more beneficial to students than long-term substitutes who may be unfamiliar with the curriculum they are supposed to cover. After her teacher went on leave, junior Ava Tomasovich found that she preferred an online class because she could balance the workload while still staying on track. The program is through AVA – Atlanta Virtual Academy – and requires daily completion of assignments, frequent quizzes, and end-of-unit tests, very similar to an in-person class. “I like my online class because it is not stressful, and I can do it at my own pace,” she said. 

Even with the success of online classes and teacher hiring, teachers and students still feel the impact of the shortage. IB teacher Amy Shilling has worked at North Atlanta for seven years and still struggles with taking a day off because she recognizes the adverse effects of teacher absences. Shilling has been aware of teacher shortages in the past, but she believes this shortage is one of the worst. In addition to her dedication to her students, Shilling explains that the substitute shortage means that teachers occasionally have to cover for others during planning periods (a required 90-minute period every teacher has daily to plan content and grade assignments). Besides the programs already in place to deal with the shortage, Shilling feels simple understanding and regard for teachers go a long way. “I think we need more of an overall cultural respect for public education and why it is so important,” she said.

Dealing with the current situation has been challenging, but with solutions in place, North Atlanta has high hopes for the future of teaching and learning.