We geek out about substitute teaching. Seriously. We can talk to anyone about it for hours. We guarantee that you will never meet two people more enthusiastic about any topic that relates to substitute teaching. So how did we get here? How in the world did two women, a former San Francisco prosecutor, and a former talent recruiter for Sea World, form an educational nonprofit that recruits and trains substitute teachers for school districts?
I took a hiatus from a grueling trial schedule to become a stay-at-home mom. Going from two incomes to one--I really needed some supplemental income, but couldn’t think of any side-gig that would allow me the flexibility I needed with young children. Despite being on the PTA/Foundation, “Room Parent”, and directing lessons in Arts Attack, no one told me about substitute teaching. They assumed based on my professional background that I wouldn’t be interested! And I saw a LOT of subs in the classroom when I volunteered, who were either inappropriate for the position or didn’t understand how to do their job. Here I was, someone who could command a courtroom, direct 12 very important people to make hard decisions, very comfortable in an elementary classroom---and no one thought to recruit me. And did I say I could have used the money? It was a missed opportunity on both sides.
My partner, Jennifer, graduated from SDSU with a degree in public relations and communications, right when the economy tanked. No one was hiring new graduates. Jennifer’s only option, was to find work where it was available--working at an In-N-Out Burger. Now if you have ever met Jennifer, you know this to be true---here was this sharp, cheerful, energetic, self-motivated college graduate, who could have comfortably been in front of a classroom, ready to entertain, teach, guide, and keep the attention of students. She didn’t know that substitute teaching was an option. Like most people, she assumed you had to be a teacher to substitute. Another missed opportunity.
Jennifer moved on to manage and recruit talent for Sea World. But eventually, we both found our way into public education, in Human Resources and Substitute Coordination. When we worked together to recruit substitutes, and really talk to people, we found that our story resonated with everyone, we got a lot of “me too”, and “I thought only teachers could substitute!”
We earned immediate trust and credibility with people who suffered from misconceptions about subbing. And they believed us when we said it was the perfect opportunity for where they were in their lives (stay-at-home, between jobs, graduate school, starting a business). We saw that hundreds of really bright, qualified, trainable people were being missed or overlooked, by schools who still relied on old methods of obtaining substitutes. We saw so many people with amazing professional backgrounds from outside of education that needed this opportunity, but didn’t even know it existed.
WHY DO WE DO THIS?
This was the beginning of our “WHY”. We wanted to help people like us when we were in need, people who similarly could use the flexible employment and supplemental income that substitute teaching could provide.
When we found permanent employment with school districts, we worked in very affluent, well-resourced schools, and through our collaborative hard work, supplied these schools with fantastic, well-trained, supported subs, covering 97% of employee absences. Principals, teachers, admins, parents, students, and subs were beyond ecstatic with what we were doing.
But our “WHY” evolved quickly. It got bigger, and became more meaningful. Visiting less-affluent, more socioeconomic and racially diverse schools--those were the schools Jennifer and I attended as children. We understood the difference in the challenges and stakes involved, and that these students were entitled to the same quality of substitute teachers that we were able to provide for our previous highly-resourced districts. We understood that having a sufficient number of qualified, reliable subs was a significant factor in leveling the playing field and closing the achievement gap for these student populations. This can only be achieved by providing teachers with abundant professional development opportunities (in order to feel supported, innovate in the classroom), and by students receiving continuity in classroom learning and instruction. These two things cannot happen without a healthy, qualified substitute pool.
Our educational nonprofit seeks to target and recruit non-traditional candidates and train them according to the district’s needs (i.e., classroom management, basic common core by grade level, addressing the needs of challenging students etc.)
As our “why” gets bigger, our nonprofit addresses not only the achievement gap, but the professional aspirations of students, and the teacher shortage. By recruiting professionally, academically, and racially/ethnically diverse substitutes, students will get to see themselves in the world, see adults that look like them and share their life experiences, and are pursuing higher education. And in turn, by exposing those outside of education to a classroom, we may attract people to teaching who hadn’t considered it as a profession.
We produce results, and we feel good about what we do for schools, teachers, students, and the community. Contact us at any time so that we can tell you more about how we do it, and the success we can deliver to your district. We can solve your sub problem!