Pioneer struggles to find new replacements for teachers


Don Packard, the head of the Pioneer English Department.

The loss of former Pioneer teachers from multiple departments has left department heads struggling to find replacements while still teaching their own classes in the new school year. 

All the five core departments at Pioneer of math, English, science, social studies, and language, each suffered the loss of multiple teachers in the recent months. Many of them switched to teaching through A2 Virtual, which is a fully virtual platform, for the entirety of the school year–even if the school were to return to in-person instruction.

“This is a really tough time and folks had to make some tough decisions based upon personal situations,” said Stephen Armstrong, head of Pioneer’s Science Department. “While I will miss those who opted to go to A2 Virtual, I do respect their choice.”

The science branch at Pioneer had two teachers who opted to take this fully-online route. The district science coordinator, Amy Dellar, stepped in as a substitute teacher for the vacant spots until Sept. 25, when a new teacher, Melissa Bender, was officially hired to teach ninth grade biology. 

“We are fully on the go now,” said Armstrong. “No gaps, no subs anymore.” 

“It’s a lot of work to move online,” said Don Packard, head of Pioneer’s English department. “Right now, I think we all feel a bit overwhelmed.” 

While this department is fully staffed, it is still looking for a part-time teacher to “better serve our community” as Packard said. “It always takes longer than we want to get a newly-hired teacher into the classroom.” 

Jennifer Kunic, head of the Social Studies Department, explained that they are doing well, too. While Joan Bruggers did retire, the department also gained two new teachers:  Amy VanAppledorn for World History and Humanities, and Kelly Czajka for World History, Government, and Current History. 

The Math Department, on the other hand, is not in the same boat. In an email last Jan. 29th, Principal Tracey Lowder said the school has been “working through a myriad of challenges in our Math Department.” At that point in time, there were four teachers who had just left, one who had been added, and another expected to join soon. Currently, with one teacher on leave and multiple who have pledged to do fully online, the math department is scrambling to find adequate replacements. 

What makes these losses even more difficult is the fact that this problem has to be dealt with while the department heads are still teaching their own classes. 

“Converting the curriculum to the new format––it takes hours every night,” said Kunec. “With all that being said,” she added, “We are finding ways to connect and give our students the best education possible.”