Harvard Community Unit School District 50 has received more than $7.8 million dollars through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds over the past year.
First passed in March 2020 as a part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the ESSER grant was designed to help school districts prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The Harvard CUSD 50 Board of Education and administrative team have worked closely to ensure ESSER funds are appropriately dispersed.
On July 21, 2021, the Board of Education approved the use of ESSER funds for five additional Floating Teacher positions. Proposed by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Vicki Larson, Floating Teachers provide critical support for teachers and students alike, moving between classrooms to fill in where needed. This recent action by the Board of Education brings the total number of Floating Teachers in the district to six, with one open position remaining. Hiring these teachers allows the district to use a small amount of the ESSER money towards staffing needs and handle the substitute teacher shortage.
“Due to COVID and a smaller-than-usual substitute pool, the Board of Education determined there was a significant need to add permanent floating teachers as extra support for our schools with planned or unplanned absences,” said Mindy Shafer, Board President. “They have the opportunity to learn and observe routines, build rapport with the students, staff, administrators, and parents daily. The floating teachers have become dependable team members in our schools and are important to ensure the educational needs of our students remain a top priority during these challenging times.”
Floating teachers support the work at each school, and in turn, the school supports floating teachers.
“The floating teacher is an active member of the building team, participating in all building events, professional development, meetings, and Professional Learning Communities,” said Dr. Larson. “They are full-time employees that are compensated according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, receive benefits, and have the same expectations as classroom teachers. The only difference is that they float around the building to fill in where they are needed.”
This position also offers teachers the opportunity to transition into classroom teaching.
“The goal is that they are able to create relationships with students, families, and staff as well as transition into a position of their specialty when it is available,” Dr. Larson said.
As a previous floating teacher for District 50, Jay Justice was recently named the Career Exploration Teacher at Harvard Junior High School.
“The floating teacher role was a great way to be introduced to the district,” said Justice. “You are a support for the entire staff and help to provide consistency for students when their teacher is gone. It was an awesome way to get to know a lot of the staff and really exposes you to many different methods and styles of teaching.”
For Justice, his favorite part of the experience was growing as an educator and building relationships with students.
“Subbing can be a difficult job when you come in and out a day at a time, but, as the floating teacher, the kids come to know what to expect from you, and it makes for a pretty seamless experience,” he said. “You have a lot of time to reflect and grow by learning from your colleagues and getting to see how they do things daily. It was definitely a valuable experience as I transitioned into a new role at the Harvard Junior High School.”
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