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Back to school: Recruiting substitutes, retaining teachers


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You might have heard about teacher shortages across the state with a new school year right around the corner.

It turns out many districts are also short on substitute teachers, too.

We checked with Abilene ISD to find out where they stand.

After substitute teaching for two years Beth Dukes is about to start her 13th year as a teacher.

"So, I decided to start subbing just a little bit, and the little bit became a lot, and then a lot became going back into the classroom," Dukes said.

She said the flexibility of subbing is a big plus.

"Being able to say yes to a high school position but then the next day say yes to preschool -- I love to be able to sub for art, or PE or deaf ed," Dukes said.

Jessica Garcia subs while working on her master's degree and being a full time mom.

"Being able to take care of your family at home but also be a part of the community, and I feel right now our community needs us parents who have the time even as a student mom to be there to help these teachers," Garcia said.

Alison Sims, the associate superintendent for human resources with AISD said having enough subs is a struggle.

"I describe substitute teachers as scooping sand through a funnel," Sims said. "The funnel's big at the top, and you're constantly scooping people in, but as you're doing that there's sand running out the bottom at the same time and so we are constantly hiring subs."

This year subs will earn an extra $10 a day. Depending on what area they're subbing in and their certification status they'll make anywhere from $90 to $110 dollars a day. Long-term subs can make more.

It's not easy to walk into a classroom full of 22 first graders and learn their names and how the classroom works, and then you're supposed to sit down and teach them how to read, too," Sims said. "It's a difficult job, rewarding job but a difficult job, and we're very thankful. We have a lot of really great substitutes in Abilene ISD and we're always looking for more."

The district is also looking for teachers. This week they were short four teachers -- not bad considering some larger districts across the state have been short hundreds of teachers.

The district's also working to keep the teachers they already have in part with financial incentives.

"Teachers who have a credible year of service this year and next year eventually are going to get a two thousand dollar bonus," Sims said. "So that's one big thing because people can say things aren't about pay, but pay does demonstrate our love and respect for you."

They also tout their benefits package and are looking at offering incentives like an employee day care.

"In Abilene ISD we are really in a good place with our student to teacher ratio," Sims said. "We don't have a single elementary class that's uncovered based on what we believe the attendance to be. We are fully staffed. State law says we have to have 22 to 1 in kindergarten through 4th grade. I believe we will meet that 100 percent.

Those who know first hand what it's like to be in the classroom encourage anyone who's considering it to get involved.

"It's a new adventure, and it could be a new career for you just to be able to know you did your part in our community and being able to come into the classroom and make a difference in every kids' life," Garcia said. "I think it is definitely the time and the place right now for teachers and school communities to rise up," Dukes said. "I believe it is essential to where our society is going."

You can apply to be a substitute teacher here.

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