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    Too many teacher vacancies? How substitute teachers build the pipeline.



    Ask any school administrator across the country about the biggest concern each school day and you’ll likely hear the same response: keeping my classrooms filled with teachers. The teacher shortage is a crisis that impacts many districts across the country—and finding qualified substitute teachers is just as difficult. One school principal has a pipeline approach that's solving both vacancy issues.

    Adam Lane, Florida 2022 Principal of the Year, saw the impact of the teacher staffing shortage when he became a principal for Polk County Public Schools. He developed a plan to fortify the education workforce. It's rooted in a “grow your own” approach where he builds relationships through various channels: 

    • Recruiting alumni to education jobs before they graduate. 
    • Hiring local college interns interested in education professions. 
    • Using substitute teacher program as experiential career training. 

    As part of the strategy, Lane identifies high school students who want to become teachers and keeps them engaged through opportunities. He also talks with with former students in college who enroll in education programs or are considering changing their major.  He then encourages them to apply to the district's substitute teacher program which provides them with the right exposure to classroom experiences. 

    “My teacher pipeline strategy starts with Kelly Education substitute teachers,” he said. “Kelly helps them through training, onboarding, and scheduling. Then, they get familiar with our kids and get familiar with our campus. We get to evaluate them, work with them, and then we find out if this is truly a career they want move forward with.” 

    Building careers through substitute teaching. 

    Camil Fowler is one shining example of the “grow your own” program. She’s an alumna, who participated in the substitute teacher program for three years while she was completing her college degree. 

    “Being a substitute with Kelly Education was a really incredible process,” said Fowler. “I enjoyed myself every single day on the job and it was a really great way to get some experience as somebody who didn't really know whether I wanted to go into teaching.” 

    Fowler credits the administration for making her feel as though she was a part of the school community. Principal Lane says he's intentional about creating a welcoming culture. Here's a few steps he suggests:

    • Meet with each substitute teacher before they enter a classroom.
    • Invite long-term substitute teachers to attend faculty meetings and share their insights.
    • Encourage substitutes to engage with lunch duty and school activities.
    • Allow them to work with teachers on common lesson planning.

    “When you go to college there are obviously opportunities to do internships and practicums, but because I wasn't an education major, I wasn't able to get that kind of experience,” Fowler said. “I was able to progressively learn on the job and work with more experienced teachers in co-planning. Then, Kelly Education supported me through the certification process.” 

    > Listen to Camil Fowler talk about how her experience as a substitute teacher prepared her to be hired full time.


    Accelerated programs for teacher certification.

    For many prospective teachers, like Camil,  who don't go through the traditional college degree programs, the path to becoming a teacher can be overwhelming to navigate. That's why Kelly Education created the Kelly Education Accelerated Certification and Education Program (ACE). Through partnerships with select institutions and providers, our substitute teachers can work toward earning a teaching certificate or obtaining a bachelors's or master's degree requirements.  Many of our substitute teachers are often hungry to make the leap to full-time. Last year, more than 1,000 of our talented substitute educators signed up to learn about ACE.  We encourage them to pursue their dreams.

    Your expert guide to building an effective substitute teacher program. Get it now.

    Partnership strategically builds your pipeline.

    The model deployed by Polk County Public Schools works. The district hires between 100-200 Kelly Education substitute educators each school year. That's more than 1,000 employees over the past eight years.

    In 2022, 54 alumni were employed at Haines City Senior High School. Lane says they work as assistant principals, teachers, substitute teachers, and support staff.  As a bonus, he says that alumni already feel connected to the school community and become part of the school’s success stories. 

    Principals across the country tell us that some of the best educators don’t enter the profession from the traditional high school to college route and they are grateful for the different work and life experiences that substitute teachers bring to the profession.

    At Kelly Education, we know that getting creative with the teacher pipeline to fill vacancies is essential in today’s labor market. Allowing substitute educators to gain invaluable training and experience leads to long-lasting, meaningful careers. If your district needs help in solving your teacher vacancy crisis in the short or long term, reach out to schedule a consultation today.  

    Editor’s Note: Adam Lane is now a principal with the Hillsborough County Public School District, another Kelly Education partner. 

    View Related: K-12 School Districts

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