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Superintendent's News

Posted: September 24, 2021

From Sub to Supt

In his weekly message, Supt. Elder addresses the sub shortage.

My first job in education was as a substitute teacher. Have I mentioned that? I had just graduated from the University of New Mexico, was thinking about going to law school, and was tired of waiting tables (at Bennigan's for those who might remember the popular uptown restaurant known for its happy hours and Monte Cristo sandwiches.)

I signed on as a substitute teacher with Albuquerque Public Schools to earn some extra money while figuring out the rest of my life. What I thought was a temporary stint turned into my life calling as I found myself captivated by the classroom, charmed by each school staff, and enamored by the students. I was hooked on public education, and the rest – as they say – is history as I went from Sub to Supt.

I have a great deal of respect for substitutes who step in when classroom teachers and educational assistants need to take a sick or personal day, participate in professional training, or attend to an emergency. They allow learning to continue while helping to keep students safe. It's an honorable job, and one in great demand, now more than ever.  

If you work in our schools, and even if you don't, you probably know how badly we need subs right now. A couple of years ago, amid a national teacher shortage, we successfully partnered with Kelly Education, a leading provider of substitute teachers to school districts nationwide. We were filling 93 percent of our requests for subs daily, up from about 72 percent a few months earlier. We had a qualified pool of substitutes at the ready, and we could breathe a little easier.

You can probably guess where this story is headed.

When the pandemic hit, APS lost more than a thousand substitute teachers. Let's face it; it was hard enough to teach remotely on a regular basis, but to do so from school to school and subject to subject proved to be too challenging for many. Last year, we were down to about 300 substitute teachers on our roster, an anemic number for a school district with more than 5,300 teachers.   

The good news is we have more than doubled that number in the first few weeks of the school year. The bad news is we still don't have near enough subs for a district of our size.

So I turn to you, as I often do, for help.

First, I want to thank all who step in to cover classes when subs aren't available. Teachers, EAs, administrators, and others across the district are doing everything to keep the learning going despite the substitute shortage, and I am grateful for that.

I'm also hoping you might be able to help recruit the next generation of substitutes.  After all, who knows better than an educator what it takes to be a good substitute teacher or educational assistant. Think about the people you encounter every day – the parents, grandparents, and volunteers in your school, your neighbors, former colleagues, and friends. Do they like variety? Do they love kids? Do they have experiences and knowledge to share? Are they looking to give back to their community? Do they want to work when it works for them?

We know the pandemic forced many to re-evaluate their jobs and wonder what they will do next. Education could be the new career for those seeking a change, and substitute teaching is a possible entry point.

I know of what I speak.  

Please share the link below if you know someone who might be a good substitute teacher or substitute educational assistant. Thanks. And thanks for doing what it takes to keep the learning going.