Who’s the substitute teacher for history class? The governor

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox filled in as an 8th-grade history teacher at West Lake STEM Junior High School in the Granite School District on Tuesday, in an effort to encourage state employees to take advantage of an executive order granting administrative leave to those that can step in as teachers and other school positions during a time of heavy staffing shortages.

“Spending time in the classroom gave me even more respect for what our educators do every day. We can’t thank them enough for their skill and dedication, especially their extraordinary efforts during the pandemic,” Gov. Cox said. “Seeing the curiosity of these students and how they interacted with their peers and me as their substitute reinforced my view that in-person learning is the best environment for our students. We must do everything we can to keep our schools open.”

The governor’s assignment for two class periods of Utah history covered the state’s population growth and water needs during the current drought. The third period of U.S. history examined the history of Jamestown as the first British colony in North America.

“We were so grateful to have Gov. and First Lady Cox part of West Lake today filling in for an absent teacher and para educator. The statewide sub shortage has affected us dramatically this year, and we’re so impressed with their willingness to be part of the solution and to be example setters for others,” said Tyson Howe, the principal at West Lake STEM.

“We certainly have a great need for strong subs, and we were over-the-moon excited by the memorable experience for our students and staff that the Cox family created by stepping in as those substitute teachers. It’s not every day you have your social studies class taught by your very own governor.”

Granite School District, in Salt Lake County, is dealing with staffing shortages due to teachers calling in sick alongside general labor crunch factors all of Utah is facing, as the state recently reached its lowest unemployment rate in history — 1.9%.

District spokesman Ben Horsely said there were more than 2,000 requests for substitutes during the first two weeks of January.

“Numbers have improved dramatically, but last week alone we still had 761 requests of which 192 went unfilled by traditional subs (filled by district-level emergency subs or school site teachers/admins using their preparation periods to cover),” Horsley said.

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