Richfield schools holding job fair to attract substitute teachers during shortage

In a survey released by the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board showed 88 percent of school districts said substitute teacher shortages are "significantly" or "very significantly" impacting their district. 

The same survey found that 89 percent of school districts said they feel there are "somewhat fewer" or "significantly fewer" substitute teachers available now compared to five years ago. 

"I would say, very much like the rest of the state is dealing with, we are short on subs," said Craig Holje, head of human resources for the Richfield School District. 

On Thursday, November 18, the Richfield School District is holding a job fair from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. to try and attract substitute teacher candidates.

In the state of Minnesota, individuals with a bachelor degree of any kind and qualify to get what’s called a "short call sub" license allowing them to help fill substitute teaching positions at schools. 

In Richfield, district administrators are re-imagining the program to make it easier for people to get trained for and involved with substitute teaching. 

"All you really need to do is have a love for working with kids, a skill for working with kids, have an interest working with kids. We’re building training opportunities for individuals who maybe aren’t trained teachers to come in and help support our schools in our substitute teacher shortage," Holje said. 

Holje said the district is also allowing substitute teachers to select specific days they are available instead of being on-call for substituting emergencies. They also have teacher "reserve" options that allow substitute teachers to have guaranteed hours and pay. 

Right now, Holje says, when a teacher needs to be out of a classroom, because of substitute teacher shortages, other staff members have to take on that teacher’s responsibilities, on top of their own. 

"That’s taking away time that they have to do planning that’s adding additional levels of stress to their workload," Holje said. 

He says getting more substitute teachers on staff would alleviate that stress. 

"We need [teachers] to be able to stay home when they need to. We need to have kids be able to continue their education at a high level. So having substitutes in the classroom helping to support that learning is really critical," Holje said.

Holje said one of the reasons he thinks the Richfield School District and so many other districts are facing substitute teaching shortages is because before the pandemic, many substitute teachers were older, retired teachers who participated in part-time substituting. He says, since students have returned to the classroom, for many reasons like potential exposure to COVID-19, many of those substitutes have not returned. 

The issue is so substantial in the South Washington School District that last week, the district sent a notification to parents saying: "finding substitutes is increasingly challenging. We ask families to prepare for staff shortages that could temporarily shift a classroom into distance learning for up to 10 calendar days." 

"I knew there was a shortage but didn’t realize how much of a shortage I guess," said Rachel Bauder, a reserve teacher in the Richfield School District. 

Bauder is a substitute or "reserve" teacher at Centennial Elementary School in Richfield. She is a full-time employee that fills in for teachers when they are absent or helps assist in other areas, like working with students with special needs, on days where all teachers are present. 

"I love it. It’s just always a new and interesting day you don’t know what to expect," Bauder said.  "It’s always just so fun the kids are so positive to be around and they’re just so sweet and make the day awesome." 

For more information on how you can become a substitute teacher in the state of Minnesota click here.