MAUMELLE, Ark. – It’s no secret that schools across the state are dealing with teacher and substitute shortages. It’s a problem with no end in sight, but some districts are finding creative solutions.

The number of staff on hand in our public schools changes from day to day and Maumelle Middle School within the Pulaski County Special School District is certainly no exception.

But one staff member is stepping up in a way that goes above and beyond the call.

An 8th-grade pre-Algebra class is currently meeting in the cafeteria.

While they’re without their regular teacher, they’re not without an educator.

“And I identified a group of students that were from a math class and by me being a math instructor, naturally, I just took over,” said Mark Essex Smith, a math instructional coach at Maumelle Middle School.

Smith said he saw a problem and a way to solve it.

“I just got the whole class together and I grabbed a whiteboard that was around, and I just taught the lesson,” Smith said.

Teaching kids how to solve systems of equations isn’t in his job description.

“But old habits are hard to die,” Smith said.

When principal Preston Echols saw what was going on, he said it made him feel “awesome.”  

“Amazing,” Echols said. “Proud. You realize this is what education is about.”

Echols snapped a photo of the moment, which has since then been shared on social media.  

“It’s just one of those moments where you have to capture because you realize how awesome of an educator you have in your building,” Echols said.

As the saying goes, once a teacher, always a teacher.

“I looked in a lot of those students’ eyes that particular day and realized, ok, they got it,” Smith said.

“He’s one of those ones that he doesn’t just say it,” Echols said. “He actually lives it, he walks it, he teaches it, he preaches it.”

PCSSD isn’t the only district feeling the strain.

The Russellville School District is having a hard time staffing its cafeterias. Some parents there have stepped up to volunteer to serve food. And for those who can, they’ve offered to send their kids to school with lunches from home to help ease the burden.