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Recruiting substitute teachers may be key to dealing with staff shortages

The Winterset Community School District has been advertising the process to become an authorized substitute teacher to its own residents.

WINTERSET, Iowa — It's a story you're probably familiar with by now: businesses struggling to stay staffed. But the same can be said for many classrooms across Iowa.

"Elementary positions traditionally will yield 60 to 100 applicants, and there were some places in Iowa that were getting zero," said Justin Gross, Superintendent of the Winterset Community School District.

Teacher shortages are becoming more and more common. 

Two weeks ago, Saydel High School had to give students an early weekend because of a lack of instructors. Winterset schools have not had to cancel classes, but teachers have had to give up prep periods to help cover gaps.

Even principals have stepped in to teach a few times.

"Our staff is committed to keeping the school open and serving kids. It's required all of them to give a little more than they should have to," Gross said.

Looking to address that shortage, Winterset has turned to the community for help with a call for residents to become substitute teachers. If you are 21 years old or older and have at least an associate's degree, it might be easier than you'd expect.

"You complete the sub authorization class, which is a course for about 20 hours, that's offered either face to face or online, in the AEA system," said Kevin Fangman, Chief Academic Officer for the Heartland Area Education Agency.

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Anyone who already has a teaching degree is also immediately eligible to be a substitute teacher. However you end up authorized by the state to be a sub, you will still have to get certified by a school district afterward.

In Winterset, the hope is that recruiting community members to sub will keep kids in the classroom.

"The point of reaching out to them was to be honest," Gross said. "We're looking for subs, and if they have a skill set, that they can benefit and help out, we're more than willing to walk them through that process and get them licensed to be a sub."

If you are interested in becoming a sub, the next courses start on Dec. 10. That session will be held over Zoom. 

The registration for that substitute teacher authorization course can be found here.

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WATCH: Staffing shortages force Saydel High School to cancel classes (Nov. 12, 2021)

https://youtu.be/YYBqGMIh6N0