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Northwoods school district hopes new law will help fill substitute teacher shortage Submitted: 10/20/2017
Rhinelander - Just a year ago, days looked a lot different for Rhinelander's Jane Dunbar. For 27 years up to her 2016 retirement, she built a career.

"I worked for the state health department," she said. "I worked in public health for communicable disease and immunization."

Now, Dunbar picks days she'd like to work as a substitute teacher at Pelican Elementary School.

"I've been doing kindergarten today, and I really like the kindergarten," she said on Wednesday. "They're really active."
The School District of Rhinelander wants more people like Dunbar. Dunbar has no degree in education or history working in schools. But she has an interest in giving back to kids.

"We've had some fabulous substitute teachers," said district Director of Instruction Teri Maney. "We call them guest teachers in Rhinelander."

But Maney wishes she and her principals didn't have to spend so much time figuring out how to cover classes with subs in short supply.

"Everybody steps up and helps out. The principal helps out. There's no one who doesn't step forward," she said. "We've had more of a need for longer-term subs. When we have a longer-term placement, that pulls out of our regular sub pool."

Maney says a statewide sub shortage has been years in the making. But it's a new state law which could help to relieve the problem.

"We see it as great news," Maney said of the law.

Substitute teachers used to need a bachelor's degree to be eligible. The degree could be in any field, not limited to only education.

Now, with a provision passed in the state budget, people with associate's degrees can teach after some district training.

"The degree is not really going to be the first and foremost thing that we're looking at walking into the classroom," Maney said. "It's, how do you interact with kids? How do kids interact with you? What can we do to support those relationships?"

Dunbar has a four-year degree, so she's already covered. But she may soon be joined by others like her with even more diverse levels of education.

"I wanted to do something meaningful for the community," Dunbar said. "Just give it a try."

If you're interested in becoming a substitute teacher, call Gen Luebke at the School District of Rhinelander. The phone number is 715-365-9700, extension 5734.

Written By: Ben Meyer

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