The Science Behind Long Term Substitutes


Extended teacher absences can often require school administration to hire a long-term substitute.

On any given day there are a handful of substitute teachers covering daily absences.  And, each year teachers request the assistance of long term substitutes while they take medical leave, pregnancy leave, or have a family emergency. Long term substitutes last for around 6 months and in that time, teachers need reassurance that their class is in good hands

Tom Ryan is the daily sub coordinator for BHS.  He hires all the subs we love to see, and don’t love to see.  He tries to rehire the same people to reduce confusion.

“I kind of recycle the same people through,” Ryan said.

Our school is six buildings and having a substitute teacher who simply knows how to navigate our campus is a plus.  Ryan also watches and learns who can actually teach and lead the room, especially when he’s looking for a long term substitute.

“We can’t just put a warm body in for a long term sub.” Ryan said. He defines a warm body as “someone I don’t want here.” This could be someone who does not know the curriculum or does not get the work done.

Although Ryan may find long-term substitutes, the process for those positions is handled Human Resources and the principal.  

Principal Tracy Racicot is notified if a long term sub is needed. From there, Human Resources posts an application on the website.  To apply for this position, interested applicants had submit a resume and cover letter, and write an essay on cultural competence.  The list is narrowed down by a series of interviews.

Jill Kelley, an English teacher, is expecting this April and started the process of choosing her long terms sub months in advance.  

“It was narrowed down by admin to four applicants,” Kelley said.

She thinks that this process is inclusive and knows that her class will be in good hands. She feels good knowing that her sub will be a qualified English teacher.

“So we’re looking for a teacher who understands our student population at BHS, is able to teach a wide variety of students and appreciates the diversity of our school.” she said. 

Authenticity is important for Kelley.

“I don’t want it to feel like their education has been disrupted and I want them to feel like they still understand what is expected of them in the class and they feel understood and seen by the sub. I want to make sure that effective learning is still happening.” Kelley said.

This year, science teacher Brian Hoffman needed a long term substitute from the start of the year.  John Ellison was hired and has been teaching for six months.  He has found teachers supportive of his position.

“[Richard] Meyer and the whole science department really helps me if I need to do something or figure something out,” said Ellison, adding that he hardly has to make plans for the day because Hoffman does it for him.

At the beginning of the year students did not treat Ellison with the respect that one should treat a teacher. He feels he has now earned their respect and has a developed a strong sense of community. The only challenge remaining is the pain of leaving.

“I want to stay with them,” Ellison said.