SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Changes at the state level in Missouri are making it easier and faster to become a substitute teacher.
The state’s Department of Education (DESE) says there is now an online training program aimed at widening the pool of temporary teachers. The department launched the program on Sept. 3 and nearly 900 people signed up in less than two weeks.
“We would be able to attract a different audience of people that we’re not getting now,” said Paul Katnik, assistant commissioner for the Office of Educator Quality. “People who could be good substitute teachers, they just haven’t got 60 semester hours.”
Katnik is with the DESE and says the department’s new training program doesn’t lessen the requirements but adds a more specified option.
“The goal is always more, more of course, but also better, because the 60 semester hours could be in any area at all,” said Katnik. “This training is very specific for everything you would need to know if you were going to go in and be a substitute teacher.”
The training course is 22 hours long and, when paired with a background check, makes it possible to get certified and hired within a few days.
Penmac’s Education Branch manager Steven Sparkman says this program could help with the unemployment rate.
“We just know that this was a completely untapped pool of possible candidates,” said Sparkman.
Restrictions on retired teachers have relaxed and they can now come work, but schools could be looking for a different demographic.
“The folks we think this training may appeal to is younger people, who may not be as much as a concern for health risks,” said Katnik. “It kind of hits a group of people that we kind of need right now. And it’s important to us because our students have been through a lot since March.”
Sparkman says Penmac has about 40 people enrolled in the training in the Springfield area.
Katnik says the Department of Education is working to make the program permanent for future years.