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Three creative ways to find (and keep) substitute teachers

Best Practices

11/23/2021 | Sasha Kopp

Flu season is here, and although schools continue to take extra health and safety precautions, educators across the country still are getting sick. Directors are scrambling to find substitute teachers and many have to take time off from administering their schools in order to spend time in classrooms – doing whatever it takes to keep classrooms open. It is evident to anyone in the field d that there is a staffing shortage and it includes finding qualified substitutes that can hop in at a moment’s notice.  This winter, childcare providers have to be creative about finding substitute teachers. It might mean doing things a bit differently than in previous years, but it is helpful to be prepared.

Plan ahead:

Directors know the dreaded feeling of getting an overnight email or text sharing that a teacher will unexpectedly be out for the day. Over the next few months, we need to anticipate that these texts will be the norm, and plan accordingly. Additionally, there are always a few days, such as the day before or after winter vacation, where teachers are often sick and traveling. Directors should spend time in early December actively calling members of their substitute teacher list taking records of their availability. If it is in your budget, and you are able to book them in advance, make an effort to secure as many substitute’s hours as you can whether or not you have a confirmed teacher absent. If ultimately a teacher isn’t out that day, the substitute could help with giving teachers a break, shadowing a child, cleaning, or other projects throughout your center.

Connect with college students:

The break between college semesters is often 4-6 weeks, leaving young adults home with often lots of free time between December and January. Find local Facebook groups or organizations that have connections with college students or their parents and share information about short-term substitute opportunities. If there is no prior education experience required to be a substitute teacher then remember to share that! Oftentimes it is through substitute teaching where individuals who were not previously interested in pursuing education professionally fall in love with this line of work. Follow up with excellent college student substitutes to see if they are interested in summer work as well!

Unfamiliar places:

Oftentimes it is random happenstance that can connect a great person to a center. Place flyers in local coffee shops, gyms, community centers, and other locations where individuals who might participate in part-time work may frequent, or PDFs in online community groups.  When sharing about your center in a flyer, remember to highlight that this work is filled with joy. In their experience as substitute teachers, individuals can connect with children in person, build relationships and create meaningful opportunities to help young children grow and flourish. It is rewarding work even if someone isn’t able to make a full-time teaching commitment. Substitute teaching is wonderful for those who want to get a sneak peek into the world of teaching young children.

This year will be harder than ever before to ensure that you have a full staff each and every day. Make sure that teachers know that you are looking for additional substitute teachers and encourage your existing staff to reach out to family and friends. We know that this work is rewarding, dynamic, and never boring! Through word of mouth and creative marketing, we can share the excitement of early childhood education with new substitute teachers in our communities this winter.

Sasha Kopp is a community early childhood and family engagement consultant for The Jewish Education Project and an adjunct professor at American Jewish University. Sasha has worked in a variety of teaching and administrative roles in early childhood programs in Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. You can connect with Sasha through her website at or through Twitter @SashaKopp.

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