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Substitute teaching open to more people

Short-term license allows those with associates degree

Grand Ridge sixth-grade teacher Elizabeth Bernardoni teaches Language Arts to her class Tuesday. New laws have made the substitute teacher pool potentially larger, which will help school districts, especially when flu season starts.
Grand Ridge sixth-grade teacher Elizabeth Bernardoni teaches Language Arts to her class Tuesday. New laws have made the substitute teacher pool potentially larger, which will help school districts, especially when flu season starts.

When the flu spreads later in the school year, Streator High School Superintendent Matt Seaton can count on the struggle to find substitute teachers.

“It’s not just a Streator High School issue, it’s an every district issue,” Seaton said of the shortage of substitute teachers. “The process of getting subs starts early in the morning, because we have to get them before they go to another district.”

Fortunately, school districts have some time before they’ll need subs as the school year is just beginning in many districts.

Some new laws also are trying to increase the pool of substitutes, said Regional Superintendent Chris Dvorak.

Effective July 1, individuals with an associate degree or 60 hours of college coursework from an accredited college are eligible for a short-term substitute license. To acquire a full substitute license, a bachelor’s degree is necessary.

Individual school boards, however, must work with teachers and bargaining units to develop a training program that includes the following components: information on curriculum, classroom management techniques, school safety and district and building operations, Dvorak said.

The state board has created a website for individuals to apply, and schools are working on approvable training programs.

“We have recently done so at our Safe School,” Dvorak said of the Regional Office of Education.

Short-term substitutes are limited to working five consecutive days for one teacher and the license sunsets on June 30, 2023.

Seaton noted the requirements for a teacher’s aide include an associate degree.

Another law Seaton said will increase the candidate pool allows retired teachers to substitute 120 days, instead of 100.

“Retired teachers are one of our biggest pools,” Seaton said.

Grand Ridge Grade School Superintendent Ted Sanders said his district is not alone in its struggles to find substitutes, but he believes the lack of numbers is indicative of a deeper issue.

“I think there’s a negative perception of education,” Sanders said. “It’s tough to get people when the stories in the media focus on the negative. ... There’s a perception working in education isn’t a good job.”

Sanders said when a substitute can’t be hired, a principal or other teachers have to fill in, causing a burdensome shakeup at the school.

Still, he emphasized the standards can’t be lowered too much for a substitute, because they have to possess certain skills.

“You still have to do what’s best for kids,” Sanders said. “We’re not looking for just a body to fill space, you have to be qualified to learn a lot of things and be able to teach them.”

Substitutes that work 10 days can have full application and registration fees returned, after another law was passed last summer.

For more information on substitute teaching, go to http://www.roe35.org/?DivisionID=13085&DepartmentID=26714 on the Regional Office’s website.

The La Salle, Marshall and Putnam Regional Office of Education is available to work with individuals interested in becoming substitute teachers. 

They are hosting a substitute teacher registration day 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10 and 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11 at the office, 119 W. Madison St., Room 102, Ottawa.  

Regional Office staff will be available to assist in completion of paperwork, to complete fingerprinting, and to answer questions. Attendees should bring an official sealed college transcript (or have the college/university mail it to the office) and a physical and TB test not more than 90 days old. For further questions, contact Alaina Johnson at ajohnson@roe35.org or call 815-434-0780.   

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