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Bobbie-Jo Kemp


Send in the Subs

Top of Utah school districts are seeing an influx of substitute teacher applicants as people are laid off work and school districts impose a soft hiring freeze for new teachers.

Bobbie-Jo Kemp is one of those substitute teachers. She did her student teaching at Mountain View Elementary, and as she was getting to the end, she told the teachers she was planning to substitute teach until she found a job.

“I told them to give me a call if they need a substitute, and they have,” Kemp said.

She spent Wednesday and Thursday at Mountain View Elementary, where she substituted in a fifth-grade classroom.

Kemp said she always planned to be a teacher. While attending Weber State University last year, she heard about teacher shortages.

But teacher shortages became moot as school districts across the state imposed soft hiring freezes due to revenue shortages.

“I’m holding out for a position in Davis School District,” Kemp said.

For now, she plans to continue substitute teaching and hopes to get a job in the fall.
She will be competing with several others who also hope to land permanent teaching jobs. In the meantime, she competes with hundreds of other who also hope to substitute teach until they can find another job.

At Ogden School District, “the number of subs increased dramatically when the economic downfall began,” said Donna Corby, spokeswoman for the district.
Last year at this time Ogden had 130 substitute teachers. This year it has 175 substitutes and more applications being filed by people looking for a job.
“Last year, typically at this time we would have several positions unfilled that required a substitute,” said Terry Jackson, assistant superintendent at Box Elder School District.

Now the district has enough substitutes to cover whatever positions are open.

Box Elder School District had 358 substitutes last year, Jackson said. This year there are 414 substitute teachers.

The same holds true for Davis School District, said Christopher Williams, district spokesman.

This year Davis School District has 1,835 substitutes available, which is 200 more than it had at the end of last school year, Williams said.

“Word of mouth has become the marketing tool,” he said.

The growing list gives teachers more choices when they need to take time off for illness, training or personal time, Williams said.

“There is a different tone than in the past,” he said.

Substitutes also are becoming more competitive in getting a job for the day, he said. Good substitute teachers can be as busy as they want.

Kemp said she substitutes three to four days a week.

When she logs into the sub finder on the district’s Web site, jobs disappear quickly. She prefers it when teachers request her because then she gets telephoned directly.

“We’ve been short in years past, but this year more people are applying to be substitute teachers, and they can keep busy every day,” said Nate Taggart, spokesman for Weber School District.

Weber district also saw an increase in substitute teachers. The district has 1,452 registered substitutes. Last year there were 1,211.

All districts require substitute teachers to pay $15 for a background check and to undergo some training.

Geoffrey Smith, founder of the Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University, said substitute pools increase in tough economic times. Some who decide to take on substitute teaching do so to see if they want to pursue a career in education.

“It’s not necessarily a quick buck,” Smith said. “You can work for the same price flipping burgers.”

Smith’s organization provides training either to district trainers or to the substitute teachers.

Smith said substitute teachers need to have good classroom management skills and know how to handle students in an appropriate way.

Also, they need to be aware of different teaching strategies and how to use them.

Substitutes also need to dress and act professionally. They should also have activities ready for when the lesson runs short or students finish the assignments quickly. And they need to know what to do when no lesson is prepared for them to give students, Smith said.

Utah is one of 28 states that does not require substitutes to have a college degree, although most districts prefer applicants have at least a bachelor’s.
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