Substantial Bright Spots

bright-spotsBright Spots is a bi-weekly post, highlighting schools, districts, organizations and cities across the country taking proactive steps to improve the substitute teaching experience. Do you know of a bright spot we should highlight? We’d love to hear from you.


November 1 – 15, 2016

Collective Training
The folks at Pennsylvania Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV are rallying to serve their local counties with a training designed to bring more available substitute teachers to the region. Offering a three-day training, they’ll be helping substitute teacher feel prepared and confident to enter the classroom.

Candidate in the Classroom
It’s not often you hear political candidates embedding themselves at the ground level to learn how things really work, but that’s exactly what Michael Saba, candidate for South Dakota’s District 9 did over the course of the past year. After teacher pay became a major issue in the spring, he signed up to be a substitute teacher and worked over a month in schools across his district. He didn’t win on election night, but his heart was in the right place — trying to really understand the needs and experiences of his constituents.

Substitute Teaching Leads to Great Things
An amazingly uplifting story this week about a teacher in Stockbridge Schools, who finally made it into the classroom full time! Life threw her some curve balls, and it took a while to get there, but ultimately substitute teaching was the entry point that put Lori Knoespel on a path to being a full time classroom teacher. Currently teaching under a provisional license, she’s just one class away from her certification. Three cheers for Superintendent Dave Moscinski who recognized and rewarded her contributions and abilities, helping her find a supportive alternative path to her credential.

It Takes a Village
And sometimes a few good policemen! When a teacher was rushed to the hospital for an emergency, officers responding to the scene stuck around to continue teaching the children at the Daycare until parents could arrive to take students home about 2 hours later.

Do you know of a bright spot we should highlight? We’d love to hear from you.

BrightSpots photo courtesy of Seasonal Spots by RonEskins (CC BY).

Substantial Bright Spots

bright-spotsBright Spots is a bi-weekly post, highlighting schools, districts, organizations and cities across the country taking proactive steps to improve the substitute teaching experience. Do you know of a bright spot we should highlight? We’d love to hear from you.


October 16 – 31, 2016

Finding Success with Full Time Substitute Teachers
Who says that substitute teachers have to be on-call? Central Falls School District in Rhode Island is challenging that notion with so far, great success. They’ve hired 15 full-time substitute teachers and assigned each to an individual school, where they work every day — substitute needed or not. Th substitutes are supported as members of the “Warriors Fellowship Program” and as full-time staff of their schools. The best part? The program is budget neutral.

Proactive Recruiting
Many school districts feeling the pinch with not enough substitute teachers to fill their classrooms are getting proactive! They’re hosting public job fairs to recruit substitute teachers and taking to the media to publicize the events. And these aren’t just your basic job fairs — districts are marketing themselves! In Sarasota, FL they are specifically alerting potential substitutes (for both teaching and support staff positions) that “many of our full-time employees have started as subs.” In Gwinnett County, they’re talking up the $2 per day raise that was put in place just this year.

Grow Your Own
Mark Twain Union Elementary School District in Copperopolis, CA is bringing back their elementary school alums into the classroom as substitute teachers. Copperopolis Elementary School has former students moving through a teacher pipeline, starting as substitute classroom aide, to substitute teacher, and onto fully credentialed teachers. Having a supporting place to work, as they navigate this path is extremely helpful.

Recognizing the Potential of Substitute Teachers
In Kansas, they’re getting creative to keep career and technical educators. Abilene Public Schools is keeping their woodworking program, by supporting a substitute teacher to step into the role. The former substitute has an impressive background in construction and is eligible to teach full time in the classroom, while pursuing alternative licensure under a new provision by the Kansas Department of Education.

Developing Sub Specific Supports
It’s important to recognize that the substitute teacher skill set is (and must be) different. In the majority of cases, they are not fully trained teachers, who can draw on established relationships with students. Helping address the substitute teacher shortage in CA, the team at Fox and Elliot Educational Associates have teamed up and created free youtube videos to help train substitutes and assuage fears that might keep great folks from signing up. You can view the videos on their website.

Do you know of a bright spot we should highlight? We’d love to hear from you.

BrightSpots photo courtesy of Seasonal Spots by RonEskins (CC BY).

Substantial Bright Spots

bright-spotsBright Spots is a bi-weekly post, highlighting schools, districts, organizations and cities across the country taking proactive steps to improve the substitute teaching experience. Do you know of a bright spot we should highlight? We’d love to hear from you.


October 1-15, 2016

Staying Competitive
Many school districts across the country are raising the daily rate for substitute teachers in an effort to stay competitive with neighboring districts, since the numbers are so scarce. Crookston Public Schools in Minnesota will put in place a 20% daily raise starting January 1, 2017. In Spring Valley, Illinois they’ve enacted a 12.5% increase starting immediately. A long time coming, Ware Public Schools has passed an increase for the first time in 16 years; their substitute teachers will now make $70 a day. And finally, Cameron County School District in PA has raised their rates from $85 to $100, specifically “in an attempt to attract additional substitutes.”

Michigan Takes to the Airwaves
Michigan public school provider EDUStaff has taken to the media, proactively recruiting on Fox17 West Michigan to spread the word on the need for great substitute teachers. EDUStaff promises training and support for community members to become substitute teachers in many Michigan districts.

Rewarding Students, Respecting Substitutes
Lakeview Middle School in Eastern Michigan has started a new rewards program for students, recognizing them with tickets that indicate students are exemplifying school values. Substitue teachers have also been given tickets, but with a special twist — they’re different colors, so that teachers and administrators can recognize when students are being positive especially when their teacher is absent.

Incentives for Teachers
Some school districts are trying to solve the substitute teacher shortage from the other direction. Brown County Schools in Indiana has put in place stipend bonuses for teachers with perfect attendance, 1-day and 3-day absences. They’ll also buy-back accrued absences, over the 90 day limit as a distribution to the teacher’s 401K retirement plan.

Recognizing Excellence
Many districts across the country are finding ways to honor substitute teachers who go above and beyond. At Muscogee County School District they’ve recognized Jose Negron as their 2015-2016 Substitute Teacher of the Year. Negron was a former principal in the district, and has been subbing regularly for the past 9 years.

Athletes Pitch In
New Orleans has had a very special substitute teacher recently. Roman Harper is in his 11th season with the NFL, and this season he’s been subbing in classrooms, as well as on the field. Harper’s father was a teacher and coach, and although he has no plans to return to life as a full time teacher, he did say that he could see being a “sub for a day or two.”

Integral to the Classroom
Substitute teachers in Ector County Independent School District (Texas) are playing a critical role in filling vacancies within the district, where there’s a very real teacher shortage. Not only is the district providing training, and fair compensation, but they’re also creating a ladder to move substitute teachers through certification and into the classroom full time.

Do you know of a bright spot we should highlight? We’d love to hear from you.

BrightSpots photo courtesy of Seasonal Spots by RonEskins (CC BY).

Substantial Bright Spots

Bright Spots is a bi-weekly post, highlighting schools, districts, organizations and cities across the country taking proactive steps to improve the substitute teaching experience. Do you know of a bright spot we should highlight? We’d love to hear from you.


September 19 – 30, 2016

Community College Substitute Teacher Certification
Atlantic Cape Community College is helping prepare substitute teachers in the Atlantic/Cape May region of New Jersey. The Community College is offering a 10-hour program that provides an overview of the role and expectations. Students receive assistance with the substitute teacher application and certification process, along with one Continuing Education Unit.

Small District Substitute Training
Choteau Public Schools in Montana may be on the smaller side, with only two schools serving 325 students, but they’re not scrimping when it comes to getting great teachers in the classroom.  Superintendent and Elementary Principal, Chuck Gameon is bringing together current and potential substitute teachers over dinner to ensure they all have the training and support needed for the 2017 school year.

Guest Teacher Program
The way we talk about substitute teachers matters — and not just to the substitutes themselves — but to students, teachers and parents. Altoona Area School District in Pennsylvania is picking up on a local trend to introduce a Guest Teacher Program. By inviting adults in the community with specific expertise and training in specialized areas, like math and science, the district is planning to maintain consistency and regular instruction for students, even when their regular teacher isn’t available.

Rewarding Loyalty
Yakima School District in Washington is taking steps to recruit and retain more regular substitute teachers for their district. In a bold move by the Teacher’s Union and School Board, the district will recognize and reward longevity in the district, increasing substitute teacher pay after 30 days; beginning on day 31 substitutes will be eligible to receive the per diem rate for beginning full-time teachers.

Growing Their Own
St. Lawrence Valley Teachers’ Learning Center provides professional development for 2,300 educators in 17 districts across the region. While they reimburse districts for the cost of substitute teachers, so that full time staff can attend PD, they recognize that there aren’t always enough substitutes to go around. That’s why the center is recruiting and training substitutes from across the region, hosting sessions with SUNY Potsdam — for free.

Do you know of a bright spot we should highlight? We’d love to hear from you.

BrightSpots photo courtesy of Seasonal Spots by RonEskins (CC BY).