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Substitute Teaching as a Developmental Opportunity: Fellowship Program Pilot

Substitute teacher pools are a rich — and often overlooked — source of teacher candidates. In a recent survey of over 4,000 substitute teachers, nearly 30% reported that they are aspiring to become credentialed teachers. Substitute teaching is a great, low-stakes way to check out teaching. As one sub explained:

“It is a great way to get your foot into the world of teaching. You get to see how different each school is and gain great learning experience from it. It is also a nice way for you to build professional relationships with the teachers as well as students.”

But we know that nearly one third of substitutes don’t actually become teachers. So, what stops them? At Substantial Classrooms, we are committed to unlocking the potential of substitute teaching. That includes figuring out how to transform substitute teaching into a developmental experience that puts talented and interested subs on the path to a teaching credential. In our conversations with subs, we have learned about the two biggest barriers they encounter:

  • Negative Experiences. Substitute teaching is one of the most under-supported and isolated roles in education. With very little training (e.g., only 11% of substitute teachers receive classroom management training — the core function of the job!) and without an on-site manager, most subs simply are not set up for success. When subs experience chaos or frustration, they often extrapolate and conclude that teaching isn’t for them.

  • Navigating Credentialing. Substitute teachers frequently get bogged down as they try to figure out the best way to pursue a credential. Depending on the state, the various program options and structures can be overwhelming. Subs typically aren’t given a clear pathway, or any tailored support, to determine — and prepare for — the best path forward.

To remove these barriers, Substantial has designed the Teaching Pathway Fellowship. This Fellowship puts a twist on the traditional role of substitute teacher, leveraging the strengths of substitute teaching to create a powerful career-building experience for those curious about working in schools. This dual-impact program both strengthens a district’s substitute teaching system and builds a pipeline of future teachers.

Fellows work full-time in an assigned school, substitute teaching and participating in professional learning to build their skills as an educator. They also engage in targeted career-development activities to explore and determine the best next step in their education career and set them on that path.

We’re actively seeking school districts to partner with Substantial to pilot this Fellowship in the 2023-24 school year. Districts will need to commit, and begin planning, in Spring 2023. Please help us to spread the word to school districts that you think may be interested in taking an innovative approach to building a sub-to-teacher pipeline. You can introduce them to us or encourage them to contact us via email at info@substantialclassrooms.org

Amanda von Moos is co-founder and executive director of Substantial Classrooms. Jessie Weiser is the Chief Operating Officer at Substantial Classroom.

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