Lack of Substitutes Puts Schools in a Bind

Substitute teachers becoming harder and harder to come by

Thinking of taking a sick day? Unlike you, teachers have a built in system which allows the county to employ a back up teacher. The availability of substitute teachers allows for classroom education to continue and keep the daily life of students uninterrupted. But what happens when the source of subs begins to fade?

Substitute teachers work as the secondary backbone for education, but lately Fauquier county is seeing the workforce diminish. This issue stems from the low unemployment rate. According to the Director of Human Resources, Janelle Downes, the nationally low unemployment rate is limiting an available workforce when looking to fill substitute positions.

Barbara and Steve Albrink have been subbing within the county for the past 7 years. The well known duo works primarily within Kettle Run, covering jobs that range from teaching math to explaining patriot ball in gym class.

“I initially began ‘subbing’ when my wife and I decided to try it together for a little extra money,” said Steve Albrink. “I had retired from the federal government but thought that the money would come in handy to pay for extras and give me something new to try. The flexibility and variety of substituting was the primary reason that I chose to substitute since there is little long term commitment and we can chose when we want to work. It has also been fun getting to know the teachers and students.”

Flexibility is large factor when choosing to become a substitute teacher. Many people who chose to sub are either retired, work part-time, or only need an extra pay check from time to time. As the economy continues to grow, there are more opportunities for full time jobs therefore limiting eligible/available subs

“I know the substitute shortage has affected the school day and there is often a last minute scramble to fill the positions,” said Barbara Albrink. It keeps me a little busier and affects the continuity of a classroom instruction. Sometimes you have less than 2 minutes to assess the plans and find all necessary information when filling in for one block.”

The county has expressed concern in terms of filling positions. According to Downes, anywhere from 5 to 15 are not filled on a daily basis.

Along with the employment shortage, becoming a sub is a lot more complex than one might realize. Before you can work in a classroom you must go through a county lead background check, fill out paperwork, have a high school degree or GED, be 21 years of age, and prove American citizenship. After those steps are completed, a mandatory training in is required along with having a minimum of 48 semester credit hours “from an accredited institution”.

The county is working towards evaluating salaries in hopes of promoting a stronger interest in becoming a substitute teacher.

“I believe that other counties are also feeling the pinch of not having enough subs and that is probably partly due to the economy improving and other jobs are available that are more attractive in terms of pay and benefits,” said Barbara Albrink. You cannot make much money substituting so it’s not really a career path unless you want to get into a teaching career.

For now, teachers and current subs will have to work harder to make sure that class instruction isn’t interrupted from unfilled positions. One teacher suggested having fauquier employs in the county administrative offices sub as way to cover positions and allow them to get to know the students they work for.

As the economy continues to grow and produce a stronger job force, the demand for low paying and inconsistent jobs, such as subbing, will not be at the top of the job list for many.