Clubs face challenges finding faculty sponsors

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By Zakiyah Gaziuddin and Trey Phillips, Staff Reporters

Three of the most popular clubs at Conestoga faced challenges at the beginning of this year. Speech and Debate, Model UN, and DECA struggled to find faculty advisers and chaperones for their overnight trips but were able to eventually reach solutions.

Social studies teacher Kathleen Walter advises DECA, which had difficulties finding faculty chaperones for the state and national competitions that are set to take place later in the school year. 

“A lot of these clubs have grown really big, so it’s become challenging to find enough chaperones to go on the overnight trips with students,” Walter said. “Being an adviser is a big time commitment, particularly when students do well in the competitions and make it to the next level.”

Junior Bridget Xu, co-president of Speech and Debate, said the club struggled to find an adviser in the beginning of the year.

“We’ve been asking around for the better part of September and into October, and everyone just said that (their schedules) were full. I think it’s because there’s a lot of other clubs, and the teachers only have so much time after school,” Xu said. “Speech and Debate is a lot of commitment with after-school meets and stuff that can go later into the evening.”

Due to a lack of faculty chaperones, Model UN’s four yearly overnight trips to conferences were in jeopardy at the start of the school year.

“Typically, you leave on a Thursday and get back on a Sunday, so you end up working Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and then the next week,” social studies teacher and former Model UN adviser David Zimmerman said. “(This) makes it very unappealing from a teacher’s perspective.” 

Although Model UN will not be going on all four trips this year, Zimmerman volunteered to take the students to the New York Model UN conference in spring.

Speech and Debate and DECA have also found ways around their initial challenges. Corey Davison, a new social studies teacher, stepped in to fill Speech and Debate’s adviser position. Davison advised the speech and debate club at his previous school and sees his sponsorship as a way of being more connected to the school and the students. 

“I thought that (Speech and Debate) was something I could contribute to that I have some knowledge about, some passion about, and there was a need that was being unmet,” Davison said.

DECA was able to find parents to volunteer to help oversee the club’s overnight trips, and the club resumed meetings on Nov. 7 with plans to attend the state and national competitions. 

Looking forward, the district’s teachers’ association, the Tredyffrin-Easttown Education Association (TEEA), has been working with administration to support teachers who sponsor overnight trips in the future.

“The level of responsibility that (teachers) are being asked to take on when they take students away and assume all the responsibility for a group of students, I think, it’s a lot for them and (can be) uncomfortable,” Principal Amy Meisinger said.

Robert Desipio, Physics teacher and president of the TEEA, commented on the contrast between the support systems set in place at school compared to those of overnight trips.

“Teachers are always concerned about having all the support they need to handle any situation that will occur with students” Desipio said. “Here at school thats never ever an issue.  Depending on the field trip and the number of kids that go, you may have none of that (support system).” 

For the past few years, administration has given chaperones loaner phones, which allow students on field trips to contact them directly when they need assistance. The district is continuing to look into additional measures that may help teachers feel confident in chaperoning overnight trips. 

“I’m currently looking to see if there are additional things that we can do to come to a place where teachers are willing to (go on trips),” Meisinger said. “We were looking at the possibility of sending administrators on more trips and if that might help teachers be more willing to step into that overnight role. My hope is that we’re able to support students in the different activities that they want to participate in.”