School searches for excellent substitutes

It’s the middle of the school week.  You walk into history class.  An unfamiliar person sits in place of your regular teacher and their name is scrawled on the board.  A sick teacher is invariably replaced for a day, and the class goes on. Behind this natural occurrence lies a rigorous selection and scheduling process for substitute teachers. Each class that continues in its instructor’s absence is, in its own way, a small miracle.
There are many reasons individuals work as substitute teachers.  St. Paul Academy and Summit School draws substitute teachers with a wide range of experiences, from those recently out of college to former full-time teachers past retirement.
Colleen Krebs falls into the latter category. She taught English and journalism in the Upper School before retiring in 2004, and comes back often to substitute in English and French classes. While she enjoys “seeing old friends and meeting new teachers,” Krebs  misses her full-time work.
“Sometimes I think, ‘Oh, I wish I could work with these teachers and students,’” Krebs said. “It makes me yearn for the old days.”
While Krebs was an easy choice for a substitute, due to her long tenure at SPA and her stature in the community, the selection process is not always so simple.
SPA keeps up a running advertisement for substitute teachers on the school website. Applicants must submit résumés to Human Resource Director Courtney Barker, who then forwards qualified 9-12 candidate résumés to Upper School Principal Chris Hughes. Hughes interviews potential substitutes in person, asking questions that focus on their experience and availability.
“You need someone who’s open to teach, comfortable in class, and who doesn’t have another full-time job,” Hughes said.
Finally, the school conducts a background check through the Personnel Office, after which a substitute is eligible to teach.
The US maintains a pool of around thirty active substitutes. The number must be high, because each substitute generally has a schedule of their own and is not available every day.
When a teacher calls in sick in the morning, the school may contact a variety of substitutes before finding one available to come.  Often, teachers call a substitute in advance because they are attending a conference or chaperoning students.
Ideally, substitutes teach subjects in which they have some expertise. However, this is not always possible. In that case, a person with experience in a related subject may be called. Areas of greatest crossover include history to English and science to math. Languages require the most specific substitutes.
Finding enough quality substitutes is a difficult and never-ending task, but a necessary one to ensure that classes continue on schedule. So next time a new face appears in the classroom, and a new name shows up on the board, remember how much it took to get them there.