The student news site of Emmaus High School



The student news site of Emmaus High School



Teacher shortage affects social studies classes at EHS

Students engage in a social studies lesson. Photo by Tommy McDonell.

This previously ran in our September 2023 print issue.

On Aug. 28, Emmaus High School classes began, but to everyone’s surprise, three history classes had no teacher.

With it being the start of the year, minor hiccups were expected. Two weeks before school started, the high school’s part-time German teacher, Sandra Ruch-Morrin, resigned, leaving the school a teacher short. Because she waited until the last minute to submit her resignation, the school administration was left with a major problem to solve in a short period of time.

The school made its best efforts to fill the German teacher’s position, but no one applied, according to social studies department head Melissa Moxley. With social studies being an easier department to fill, Dawn Laubner, a German and history teacher, went to the world languages department and began the process of looking for a new social studies teacher. Laubner, who now teaches German full time, declined to comment for this story.

Moxley explained why the scoial studies classes did not have a permanent teacher until the fifth week of school.

“There are certain rules, as far as hiring and posting positions, that we have to follow, so it had to be posted and it had to be accepted for at least four days before we could even close it and then start interviewing people,” Moxley said.

While interviews for a permanent teacher took place, the students were given a substitute teacher who remained in contact with Moxley. The substitute received material and even took it upon herself to read more into the topics to be as prepared as possible to teach the class, according to Moxley.

As of now, Moxley is unconcerned about the students falling behind or missing out due to them having no permanent teacher.

“They’re really about a week behind and considering that the World [Honors] curriculum is not very detail-oriented, it’s more thematic, that time can easily be made up,” Moxley said.

From the student’s perspective, however, many worry about falling behind. While they only missed the first week of instruction, the transition to a new teacher can lead to some bumps in the road.

Junior Griffin Messenlehner, a student in the World Studies Honors class, is not too worried about not having a teacher. However, he takes issue with the supposed necessity in having a German teacher over a social studies teacher.

“I don’t think it was completely fair to take away a social studies teacher, which is a class needed for many students to meet graduation requirements, and move them to German, which isn’t as necessary to meet graduation requirements,” said Messenlehner.

Messenlehner also worries that he won’t score as well in the first unit compared to other classes. However, the school is making its best efforts to ensure the students don’t fall behind and do the best they can.

Still, some parents still feel they could have communicated the issue better. On Aug. 31. the school sent out an email stating that the school had an “unexpected staffing issue that occurred this week,” and that the school was “in the process of hiring a new teacher for the course.”

An anonymous parent, whose daughter is in the class, has concerns over the school’s delayed response to the families of students.

“I was disappointed that the school said nothing to the parents ahead of the first day of school. It wasn’t until Friday of the first week of school that we received an email informing us of the situation,” they said.

Fortunately, a social studies teacher has been hired. During the school board meeting on Sept. 11, the newest addition to EHS, Trey Hinkle, was hired and started on Monday, Sept. 18. Moxley said she has been in constant contact with Hinkle to ensure his preparedness for his first day.

The hiring of the new teacher is just a small part of a much larger picture. It took the school five weeks to have a permanent teacher assigned to the classes. While the situation was out of the school’s control in the beginning, parents and students still think the school could have done more.

The hiring process in the East Penn School District cannot begin until a position becomes vacant. The overall process goes through many phases of posting positions and getting approval before interviews even start.

Drew Hinkel, the Director of Human Resources, shared the full hiring process of the district.

“Contractually, we are obligated to post positions for a minimum of one calendar week. Once a position closes, administrators screen the applications, and select candidates for interviews,” Hinkel said.

The interview process itself is time consuming. With multiple screenings at various different levels, the interview process can take several weeks. When the process is all complete, the Human Resources team works with candidates to ensure all necessary documentation is submitted, according to Hinkel.

The last step in the hiring process is school board approval. Successful candidates are submitted to the school board and can begin employment once approved. The Human Resources team works to ensure that the best possible candidates are selected and sent for approval.

The national teacher shortage is yet another contributor to this situation, of which Emmaus is only one example. Fewer people are majoring in education, resulting in the pool of applicants to be smaller and less qualified. States are speeding up the hiring process just to get teachers into the classrooms. They are also relying more heavily on long-term substitute teachers than ever before, according to CNN.

At Emmaus, administrators are still seeing a large number of applicants overall, but smaller pools of applicants in certain subject areas where certifications are trending downward, according to Hinkel.

“Psychologists, world language, and special education teachers have been some of our more challenging positions to fill. Additionally, our pool of substitute teachers is smaller this year than it’s been in the past,” Hinkel said.

With the number of available certified teachers dwindling, the school does its best to ensure every classroom has a fulltime, permanent teacher. Fortunately for the affected classes, their permanent teacher started on Monday, Sept. 18. The students affected are no longer behind, and parents can rest at ease knowing their child has a qualified teacher.

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