By Tawnell D. Hobbs

“It’s weird at first, but you get used to it,” said 17-year-old Desiree Ramirez, a senior here at Duncanville High School who is taking her second remotely taught class this school year. “I’d rather have it like this than with a sub. They don’t teach.”

DUNCANVILLE, Texas—One recent morning, about two dozen students walked into precalculus, took their seats, and began logging into school-provided laptops.

The voice of their teacher, Elizabeth Jacobsen, came over a speaker system. “Chat me a hello message. Please be sure to turn your cameras on,” she said.

Ms. Jacobsen’s face popped up via live stream on the students’ laptops and was projected on a whiteboard at the front of the room.

From her living-room-turned-office in Woodstock, Ga., Ms. Jacobsen walked students through finding the functions of an angle with a virtual pen, in close-up. An aide in the classroom helped students and made sure they stayed on task.

The teacher shortage is getting so bad across the country that tens of thousands of students nationwide now get lessons live streamed into their classrooms.

“It’s weird at first, but you get used to it,” said 17-year-old Desiree Ramirez, a senior here at Duncanville High School who is taking her second remotely taught class this school year. “I’d rather have it like this than with a sub. They don’t teach.”

All 50 states and Washington, D.C., report teacher shortages, mainly in hard-to-fill areas like science, math and special education. School districts, citing tight budgets, aren’t boosting salaries in a profession with the average starting pay at $39,000.

“It’s still my preference to have a live body in the classroom if we can, but we’ve experienced teacher shortages in some of the most critical areas,” said Marc Smith, superintendent of Duncanville Independent School District in a Dallas suburb, where 60 classes are led by 10 remote teachers. It is the district’s second year using the method. “I think it’s going really well,” he said.

Duncanville ISD, where starting teacher pay is $51,000, contracted with Proximity Learning Inc., which supplies remote teachers to more than 150 school districts in about 20 states.

Proximity teachers, mostly former teachers who left the field for various reasons such as retirement or wanting to stay home with children, work from the school districts’ curriculum, said Evan Erdberg, chief executive of the Austin-based company.

Some school administrators say students are performing well under the remote teachers. “The kids actually did as good or better,” said Ronnie Wade, chief talent officer in Fulton County Schools, a 98,000-student district near Atlanta, Ga., that has used Proximity teachers for about three years.

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