Missing Instruction

Olathe North’s lack of an official French teacher has begun to impact its students.

Brian Beach, Staff Writer

It’s November. And in most classes, students have settled in and are getting to know their teachers and teaching methods. However, one class is still lacking a permanent instructor. 49 French II and 27 French I students have gone through four French substitutes, and they still lack a part-time teacher. So why hasn’t this issue been resolved? The answer, quite frankly, is complicated, especially given the lack of candidates and teacher compensation.

Initially, students in room 816 were supposed to have a teacher named Mr. Morris, but according to French II student Zachary Freud, “He had to attend his sister’s wedding in South Korea so he wasn’t there for the first few weeks.”

Things only got more complicated after this. In the words of French II student Alex Cummins, “We had a long term sub and then he quit while we still had the sub so we had the long term sub a little bit more and then she had to stop and so we had a sub for one day and then she quit and then we had another sub for about a week or so and then we finally got a long term sub until next semester.”

Long story short, these French students have had to deal with a lot of substitutes in the opening months of this school year. And this revolving door of teachers has been hard on the students.

“It’s been difficult since there’s been many different concepts of teaching brought to us,” states student Leslie Martinez.

Freud is even concerned about his fellow students’ preparedness for French III. “I don’t really plan on taking French III next year, but for those that do, I feel bad for them unless things get better,” he says.

However, French III teacher Madame Marsh believes that students in the French II classes will be prepared for next year. “I think some of the substitutes were pretty good- and they’re following the program.”

The current substitute, Mr. Miller, has also had to endure some challenges as a long-term sub and not a permanent teacher.

“When you come in and something’s already been started, you’re not quite sure what all has been done before, so it takes some time to catch up and figure out what the students have already worked on as opposed to having a chance to plan out the whole year,” Miller claims.

That being said, Miller still appreciates the part-time position, because he is finishing up his French degree and master’s degree in education.

Still, 76 French students are lacking a permanent teacher, and there are several different issues to blame for this vacancy.

Is school funding a part of the problem? Answers are mixed.

Olathe North principal Jason Herman does not believe that teacher compensation is the cause of the lack of a hire. Instead, according to Herman, “[The lack of a French hire] was more of Mr. Herman wanting to make sure that I got a quality French teacher in that position and it’s really tough when it’s only a part time spot.”

For the principal, the root cause is not a lack of teaching candidates, but rather, a lack of quality teaching candidates. “Ultimately, what I want to do is put the best teacher I can in a classroom,”

Foreign language department chair Leslye Wilhm, however, does believe that teacher compensation is an issue, not just for this particular hire, but for the profession of teaching in general. “If you’re going to be finding a job that is not going to take care of your student loans that you had taken out right off the bat, I think that’s a big factor in someone deciding whether or not they want to go into teaching,” she claims.

Of course, the undisputed ultimate goal is to get a permanent teacher in this position, but once again, the ideas for getting to this conclusion are varied.

Herman believes the best plan of action is to focus on increasing enrollment in French classes. “I would love to drive French enrollment up and then I have two full French positions and that would make things a lot easier,” he states.

On the other hand, Wilhm believes that “seeking out more individuals maybe in the college level” by “having career fairs” could result in more candidates for the teaching positions in the future. She also suggests “trying to make an impact on our students in the high school to want to become foreign language teachers down the road.”

For current French substitute Mr. Miller, the answer is seems quite simple: “Just hire me on full time, long term, and we’ll be good.”

Unfortunately, creating a full time French position is a challenge given the lack of current French enrollment, and until this position is filled, these French students will simply have to go sans professeur.