Southern York taps different pool for substitute roles

Jessica Schladebeck
  • The number of students training to be teachers has dropped from 719,081 in 2010 to 499,800 in 2014
  • Potential substitutes applying for emergency certification only need a Bachelor's degree

Susquehannock High School's boys and girls tennis coach Marianne Michels Wednesday afternoon was busy dividing students into teams for kickball during their gym period.

Substitute Teacher Marianne Michels directs students as she chooses teams during Physical Education class at Susquehannock High School in Glen Rock, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Michels tomorrow, instead of the high school gym, could be stationed in front of a row of desks discussing a novel for English class, or maybe helping students riddle their way through a physics assignment, or even at home enjoying the newly warm weather.

The tennis coach in 2007 joined the Southern York County School District as an emergency certified substitute teacher and over the years has covered pretty much every class, she said. Her favorites include physical education and most of the sciences, particularly with the older students.

"Sometimes I find myself re-learning and remembering all the stuff I haven't used in a while," Michels said with a laugh.

Emergency certification: While obtaining a bachelor’s degree is a requirement for those who wish to become substitute teachers, a degree in education and a Pennsylvania teaching certificate are not mandatory for day-to-day or long-term substitute teachers.

An emergency permit is issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Education upon the request of the employing school district when a position has been advertised and no applicant with a teaching certificate is available, according to the state department's website. Potential substitute teachers need only to have their bachelor's degree and complete an application to be considered for the emergency certification, which they would then have to reapply for annually.

Michels graduated in 1993 from Townsend with a degree in business management. After quitting her job and opting to stay home with her children for a few years, Michels said she began to felt antsy. After a friend recommended the subbing program to her, she received her certification and hasn't looked back since.

"It's been really wonderful," she said. "It's something I very much recommend, especially to stay-at-home parents and people looking for a flexible work schedule."

Substitute Teacher Marianne Michels takes attendance as she leads Physical Education class at Susquehannock High School in Glen Rock, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Shortage: Tracey Kerr, the district's human resources coordinator said the teacher shortage — one that is affecting schools nationwide has been visible.

"In years past we'd have a line of applicants out the door, you could take your pick," she said, noting that is no longer the case. "The shortage has definitely been noticeable."

Nationwide, the number of students training to be teachers has declined from 719,081 in 2010 to 499,800 in 2014,with most hopeful teachers looking for a full-time job, according to the U.S. Education Department. Most education leaders speculate the steady drop in the unemployment ratings over the last several years could be among the reasons for the shortage.

While the improved unemployment statistics are generally good news, they also indicate that more people are finding full-time work — either in teaching or in another field — leaving a much smaller pool of substitutes.

That's why the district has been trying to reach out to those who would qualify for the emergency certification, Kerr said, though the district is always on the look out for certified teachers hoping to grow in the education field.

"People who have a degree and are willing to volunteer, why not instead get them in here and get them paid?" Kerr said.

Kerr also noted the flexibility that comes with substituting and said those in the substitute pool are able to pick and choose their shifts.

"If you know you volunteer at church on Monday then you don't have to come on in on a Monday, it's entirely up to you," she said. "With any other job, you just wouldn't have that type of flexibility."

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