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Human Capital Management

The Great Resignation Has Led to a Need for Substitute Teachers

April 1st, 2022

Staffing Solution Puzzle Solved Hire New Employees Jobs Open PosThe Great Resignation has impacted nearly every industry, but educators are feeling the hit the most. More than 55% of educators have revealed they plan to leave their jobs earlier than initially planned (Jotkoff, 2022). This has left superintendents and other school leaders scrambling to find replacements. When those replacements cannot be found, school leaders are forced to make the best of tough situations. One middle school in Alpine, Utah, recently had to resort to putting students in the auditorium and playing movies because there simply weren’t enough staff members (Sanders, 2022).

The reasons teachers are leaving their jobs has varied. Some have left to pursue other careers, others have retired or are finally taking paid leave. Many teachers who are leaving have had a hard time adjusting to teaching during COVID-19. In general, interest in being an educator has decreased over the last decade (Rainey, 2022). These factors amongst others are forcing schools to find new solutions to meet their labor challenges.

Schools Need Substitute Teachers to Address Labor Shortage

Schools are responding to the Great Resignation in various ways, mainly focusing on creating a better environment for educators. However, they are also looking for ways to better prepare for shortages. Substitute teachers, for example, have become a hot commodity – but even they are in short supply.

“The most recent survey of schools in October, found more than 75% of principals were having trouble finding substitute teachers. In many districts, it’s only gotten worse after winter break” (Castor, 2022).

Tapping Into Other Resources

As teachers continue resigning from their positions, “emergency substitutes,” who are usually another teacher, aid, principal, or other school staff members, have had to step in more often recently. Short-term solutions like this aren’t sustainable, however, which has led school leaders to think creatively and try innovative ways of attracting new substitutes to come work with them.

The Granite School District in Salt Lake City, Utah is a great example of this creativity in action. During the COVID-19 Omicron surge earlier this year, Utah Governor Spencer Cox actually stepped in to serve as a substitute teacher at a local school. Then on January 31, 2022, he signed an executive order, granting “state employees 30 hours of administrative leave to fill in as substitute teachers, or other school support positions during a period of staffing shortages” (Jones, 2022). Realizing the severity of the educational labor shortage, other states such as North Carolina, Oklahoma, and New Mexico have followed in Gov. Cox’s footsteps and implemented similar orders to help fill school personnel shortages (Castor, 2022).

In other areas of Salt Lake City, schools reached out to the community for help filling their need for substitute teachers. They have even gone so far as to ask business owners to allow their employees to “play hooky” and come sub for a day (Castor, 2022). Since partnering with the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce and reaching out to businesses in early January, the Salt Lake City School District says it’s received 114 substitute teacher applications.

While tapping these new sources of talent have certainly helped, there still aren’t enough substitute teachers to meet the increased demand: instead of filling dozens of open spots, leaders in a district may need to fill hundreds of sub requests in a single day (Castor, 2022).

Here are a few ideas to help you attract the substitutes your district desperately needs:

Four Ways to Address the Substitute Teacher Shortage

  1. Expand Your Pipeline. If you can’t find substitute teachers, start growing your own. For example, some districts, have successfully launched residency programs to bring new substitutes into their pipeline. Partnering with local colleges, proactive school leaders can help fill high-need subject areas while providing education students with meaningful teaching opportunities.
  2. Reduce the Requirements. Reducing the requirements for being a substitute teacher at your school can help you fill positions faster. Many require subs to have a four-year degree and be certified as a teacher in the state. New York, however, labels a degree/certification as a “preference” but not a requirement. Other states only require a high school diploma or GED equivalent to sub at a school. Doing this will increase the size of your talent pool.
  3. Provide Training to Improve Retention and Performance. Lowering turnover within your substitute talent pool is a key component in addressing teacher shortages. So, once you find a great substitute, do everything you can to keep them working within your district. Training is a great way to keep subs interested in teaching for you. When you take the time to train substitute teachers on processes, guidelines, etc., they feel supported and may be more likely to stick around. They better understand how your school works, what your policies are, and how to conduct emergency drills. They are also more effective educators. A well-trained substitute is better equipped to carry on with the full-time teacher’s lesson plan.
  4. Become a School District People Want to Work With. One of the best ways to attract substitute teachers to your school is to be a school people actually want to work with. Building a positive reputation for your school requires you to treat your staff well, live up to your commitments, and promote the advantages of working within your district. Over the long-term, these fundamentals will help you turn your district into a talent magnet that attracts the best substitute and full-time educators.

At SuperEval, we can help you create a goal-aligned and successful district where people want to work. Our online evaluation tool can help you work towards your goals as a school leader. Learn more about how we can help you. Schedule a 15 minute demonstration today!


Castor, Rebekah. “Salt Lake City Substitute Teacher Shortage Prompts Calls for Workers in Other Industries to ‘Play Hooky’.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 8 Feb. 2022,

Jones, M. (2022, February 9). Gov. Cox serves as a substitute teacher in the granite school district. KSLNewsRadio. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from

Jotkoff, Eric. “NEA Survey: Massive Staff Shortages in Schools Leading to Educator Burnout; Alarming Number of Educators Indicating They Plan to Leave Profession.” NEA,

Rainey, Clint. “Public Schools Are Facing an Existential Great Resignation of Teachers.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 1 Feb. 2022,

Sanders, C. (2022, January 26). Amid the omicron surge, Utah schools are asking businesses for substitute teachers. The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from

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