Students convey their frustrations when teachers leave in the middle of the year

Spanish+teacher+Lilian+Viloria+teaches+a+Spanish+class+during+third+period.+Due+to+unforeseen+circumstances%2C+Viloria+had+to+take+on+other+students+from+another+Spanish+class+due+to+a+teacher+leaving+for+health+reasons.

Jasmine Bhogaita

Spanish teacher Lilian Viloria teaches a Spanish class during third period. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Viloria had to take on other students from another Spanish class due to a teacher leaving for health reasons.

Jasmine Bhogaita, Writer

The bond that a teacher and student forge during their time together can play a large part in the learning process. Teachers provide the resources students need to learn and grow as a person, as the skills they develop over time are strengthened through active communication with their instructors. However, some teachers are leaving the classroom and their students before the end of the school year, leaving behind confusion and uncertainty on how the curriculum will be taught.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, teachers are taking extended leaves from school or quitting altogether. While every situation is different, some causes include early retirement, emergency medical issues and maternity leave.

When teachers take long leaves of absence, their students are without their teacher. With the shortage of substitutes since the COVID-19 pandemic, students from these affected classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are sent to the auditorium or media center for many days on end. Without a traditional classroom setting, these students could be missing out on their education for days or weeks.

For instance, one teacher took a four-week leave at the beginning of this school year for personal reasons. Freshman Nikita Singh felt like she was falling behind on her course load due to the teacher’s long absence.

“Without our being in the classroom, I felt that I wasn’t getting the same experience as if he were here,” Singh said. “However he is back now and things are starting to get back to normal.”

Earlier this school year, one teacher announced that she would not be returning for the foreseeable future due to problems with her health. Her students have been left in the hands of substitute Julio Loaiza for the last two months. While Loaiza taught the students to the best of his ability, some students believe the experience was not the same as if their teacher was there.

“I understand the impact I am having on these students,” Loaiza said. “Teaching is two-sided, the one who delivers the class and the student who receives the information. There definitely needs to be a connection between the teachers and students, and that connection was disrupted at first. When I first took over, my very first goal was to connect with each student as quickly as I could.”

Most students appreciated Loaiza’s efforts during a chaotic time period.

“I felt very annoyed when [our teacher] left, but I know it was not her fault,” sophomore Giovanni Cortes Bedoua said. “It was hard to keep getting new teachers, but I appreciate the efforts from [Loaiza] and administration. I am hoping the situation will be smoother now.”

Some students were distributed to other teachers, who teach the same class. Some class periods have been split up to accommodate the schedules of the other, with some students receiving schedule changes to make the new situation work. On the other hand, Loaiza will continue to be a substitute at MSD.

“I knew that [our teacher] was having issues with her health, but it still came as a shock [when she left],” freshman Ria Sethi said. “We had barely begun the year, and there was already a drastic change in our classroom.”

Assistant Principal Kristine Knapp was involved with ensuring the students were properly accommodated. She explained that when a teacher decides to take a leave, they are referred to Broward County’s Leave Department, which assesses the reason a teacher is leaving and how to process their leave. After a teacher is cleared by the Leave Department, administrators like Knapp work to find a substitute that can properly accommodate the students.

“Our biggest goal is to find a solution that has the least impact on the students,” Knapp said. “Then we try to find a substitute that is a certified teacher in that specific subject area.”

Knapp also explained the process that must occur if a teacher who left in the school year returned to their position.

“We typically try to give the substitute and the teacher a few days together, [so there can be a smooth transition]. Then once the original teacher is comfortable, we let them take over their classes again,” Knapp said.

Teachers leaving during the school year elicit various reactions from on the staff, students and substitutes. Though teachers are leaving for different reasons, there is an apparent disruption in the learning process. However, the MSD administration actively works to minimize these situations, although they cannot be helped in some circumstances.