Gov. Cox substitute teaches in local junior high school, encourages state employees and Utahns to help keep schools open

Leading by example, Gov. Spencer Cox filled in as an 8th grade history teacher at West Lake STEM Junior High School in the Granite School District today. 

The action comes after he issued an executive order on Jan. 31, 2022, granting state employees 30 hours of administrative leave to substitute as teachers and other school support positions during a period of school 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.”

As is the case with all substitute teachers in Granite School District, Gov. Cox received his teacher prep notes last night. His assignment for two class periods of Utah history covered Utah’s population growth and water needs during the current drought. A third period of U.S. history examined the history of Jamestown as the first British colony in North America. 

First Lady Abby Cox also subbed as a special education teacher at the school. She has a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate in special education from Utah State University. 

“It’s so important for all students to learn and form meaningful relationships with their teachers and each other,” First Lady Cox said. “These types of powerful connections improve individual lives and strengthen our community as a whole.”

West Lake STEM Junior High School Principal Tyson Howe thanked the Coxes for their help today.

“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,” Howe said. “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.”

Like school districts throughout the state, Granite School District is struggling with staff shortages due to teachers calling in sick as well as broader labor shortages facing employers everywhere. During the first two weeks of January, Granite had more than 2,000 requests for substitutes, according to district spokesman Ben Horsley. “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.

Gov. Cox encourages state employees as well as other Utah adults to apply to serve as substitute teachers and other school staff positions during this school year.