A 19-year-old homeschool graduate from Missouri has checked off quite a few items from her list of goals in the last year. Evie has finished high school, married the love of her life, and started a job as a substitute public school teacher.
But those accomplishments came with challenges.
The last item on her list was almost torpedoed because of a misunderstanding regarding the first item—her high school diploma. Evie’s homeschool education was viewed as a liability to getting the job she wanted, which was especially frustrating to her because homeschooling was the very thing that helped her succeed as a student despite health issues and learning disabilities.
“Homeschooling was more one-on-one, which made it a lot easier to learn,” Evie said. She and her three siblings were homeschooled most of their lives.
Pathway to a Career
After graduating in 2022, Evie decided to explore a teaching career because she enjoys working with small children. She figured a great way to do that would be to work as a substitute teacher in the local public schools. This would allow her to pursue additional education while earning a salary.
Evie completed a training course which qualifies individuals with a high school diploma to work as substitute teachers. But when she applied with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MDESE) for approval to substitute teach in her local school district, the official who reviewed Evie’s paperwork said her diploma was insufficient, because she was homeschooled.
Evie and her parents conferred with the official several times, explaining that diplomas issued in a homeschool context are recognized by Missouri law. But the official refused to approve Evie’s application.
She felt frustrated given that officials at the local public school she spoke to for advice were extremely supportive. The suggestion Evie received from the state level, on the other hand, was to obtain alternative credentials. “They wanted me to take the GED,” Evie said. “In my mind, I felt like they were telling me I had failed. I thought, ‘we’re going to fight this in a different way.’”
At that point, Evie and her mother contacted Home School Legal Defense Association.
Closer Look at the Law
Scott Woodruff, HSLDA director of legal and legislative advocacy, contacted MDESE officials on Evie’s behalf. He pointed out that Evie met the legal qualifications to work as a public school substitute teacher, and that by continuing to deny her certification based on her diploma, the department risked being found in violation of another state law.
“Missouri prohibits all government agencies from discriminating based on how the person obtained their lawful education,” he wrote.
Woodruff added that HSLDA continues to do a fair amount of advocacy for graduates such as Evie who face discrimination. This trend is surprising given the fact that homeschoolers have proven their ability to succeed, not only in a wide range of careers, but also as citizens engaged in their communities.
“It’s rather shocking that people who administer state law sometimes don’t understand state laws themselves,” he said. “But fortunately in Evie’s case HSLDA was able to help and prevent an unjust outcome.”
Looking to the Future
About two weeks after Woodruff intervened, Evie heard from MDESE that her Substitute Teaching Certificate had been approved. She began substitute teaching in January.
Since then, she’s taught at nearly every grade level in elementary and middle school. She’s filled in for teachers in classes ranging from special ed, gym, and art to other electives, though her favorite so far has been science.
The only time she turned down teaching jobs was to prepare for her wedding on April 1. Now that she’s back from her honeymoon, Evie said she’s going to explore further education with the goal of expanding her teaching opportunities. Her dream is to someday open a Montessori preschool.
“I just love the interaction you get from teaching,” Evie explained. “I find that cool.”