Salem-Keizer prepares new substitute teachers for the classroom

“My goal for some of you is to change your career path,” Brian Turner told a group of about 20 people on Zoom one recent afternoon.

“You’re going to go to school, you’re going to change a child’s life, and you’re going to want an education program. “

Turner, director of recruiting and staffing for Salem-Keizer Public Schools, was leading an orientation for new substitute teachers.

The new applicants had all applied for a new emergency substitute teaching license designed to help alleviate staff shortages in schools across the state. The license, created by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission at the end of September, does not require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree or classroom experience. Applicants simply need to be 18, have “good moral character” as well as the “mental and physical health necessary to work as an educator” and sponsorship from a district, such as Salem-Keizer.

English teacher Michael Theofelis is working with students during the ninth grade counts at David Douglas High School earlier this summer. A shortage of teachers and other staff has created staffing challenges during the pandemic, which districts are working to alleviate with incentives and a new state license for substitute teachers. emergency.

Elizabeth Miller / OPB

The emergency permit is only one of many strategies used by districts to recruit potential employees. School districts also offer incentives – from extra money to a free lunch – to new hires and staff who sponsor new hires. Districts are not just looking for help in the classroom. They are looking for guards, bus drivers, nutrition service workers, and teaching assistants to help serve the students.

During Salem-Keizer’s orientation for new substitute teachers, which lasted just over an hour, Turner explained the steps involved in finding employment in the district. He also explained how to choose teaching tasks and set preferences for schools, subjects or days of the week.

“We have more jobs than people, so we have a lot of replacement jobs,” Turner said.

“So the reality is if you want to work as a substitute teacher and you go through that process, and you get that license, you will have a lot of opportunities to work. “

Turner also encouraged applicants to leave their preferences open, to explore classrooms across the district.

“I’m an advocate for inclusion and diversity, and we have various schools across our district – 65 of them,” he said.

During the orientation, Turner answered questions about class size, paperwork, and whether the district offers lunch.

“I highly recommend that you bring your own lunch,” he said – citing long lines and a short lunch break. But he spoke fondly of the dining options at North Salem High School, where he taught.

“They have a hell of a nacho bar!” If you can get there quickly you can add whatever you want… that’s pretty good, ”he said with a laugh.

Statewide, TSPC estimates it has received more than 500 emergency license applications, although it cannot issue licenses to all applicants. TSPC said it had only issued five emergency substitute teaching licenses, although Salem-Keizer officials report having 15 substitute teachers working in licensed classrooms, according to KGW. TSPC said it would have more complete data on the number of applications received and the number of districts that sponsored applicants in February 2022.

Some bachelor candidates have already pledged to become teachers and have already been in classrooms this year, as student teachers.

Alex Martin was just months away from his Masters of Education program at Oregon State University when a few of his friends, also teachers, told him he could make some money by replacing. the district.

“For me, coming to the state of Oregon actually, I didn’t have any training or experience,” Martin said. “I always think of, everyone starts out with no experience, at some point, and it’s kind of me, at least two, three months ago.”

Student teachers, like Martin, are allowed to apply for an emergency substitute license, even without a license, on condition that they have the sponsorship of a district.

Martin already has a job in a restaurant. He’s taking classes at Oregon State as part of his one-year program. And he’s at Sprague High School in Salem two or three days a week, teaching an Algebra 1 class. But the chance to become a substitute teacher presents another opportunity.

“A lot of teaching is going through the content and simultaneously managing a classroom and the kids and everything, and so that helps a lot in the classroom where I teach, because I’ve built these relationships with these students, ”said Martin.

“But in those other classrooms where I don’t have, I think these give me great opportunities to grow as an educator.”

He hasn’t completed a replacement assignment yet, but he’s going to start with Sprague because it’s convenient and he already knows the school.

Martin says he had hoped to be a full-time, permanent teacher now, but the timing of his education programs did not allow him to do so. However, being a student teacher and substitute this fall allows him something he couldn’t achieve last year, when lessons were virtual: a face-to-face experience in a classroom.

“Now I can work in the field, in a school, and learn to teach and all that education stuff that would have been a lot harder…” Martin said. “I think it works.”

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