More than 400 teachers have taken a stand against workloads and pay in Wagga during the Teacher Federation's first 24-hour strike in a decade.
Murray High School teacher and union representative Craig Jory said even large centres like Albury couldn't attract enough teachers.
"Ultimately when that happens, it's the students who suffer," he said.
"We have situations in Albury where we have to merge classes and it's becoming very dire.
"We're disappointed we have to strike.
"If parents are concerned, and they should be, about their children missing school today, how will they be feeling over the next few years when their children will still not be able to be taught by qualified teachers?"
Mr Jory said teachers were burnt out and the Department of Education needed to look at the "micro-management, excessive paperwork and extra responsibilities" involved in the profession in 2021.
"We've lost some really experienced teachers but also a lot of young teachers - that's something that needs to be addressed," he said.
"Teachers are starting their degrees and not finishing due to finding more appealing professions.
"It's hard trying to attract teachers to city schools, so you can only imagine how hard it is getting teachers across the west of the divide and even places like the Temoras, the Youngs."
IN OTHER NEWS:
The Department of Education made an application for an interim Award after negotiations came to a stalemate with the union, stating a 2.5 per cent salary increase was the maximum under the Industrial Relations Act.
An increase above five per cent is being sought by the Federation.