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Substitutes ready to go back to work

As featured in The Milton Standard-Journal

teacher smiling at the camera

MILTON — While there is an acknowledged shortage of substitute teachers in the Central Susquehanna Valley, those who are on the rosters to substitute for area schools are ready to go back to work, according to representatives from the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU).

Tony Serafini, CISU’s Special Education and Special Project supervisor, and Jennifer Williams, director of Special Education and Early Childhood Services, recently spoke about CSIU’s Guest Teacher/Education Major Training program.

Williams said the program was established in response to a shortage of substitutes in area school districts. Those who complete the program are eligible to serve as substitute teachers.

While there has long been a shortage of substitutes, Williams doesn’t expect the coronavirus pandemic to exacerbate the situation.

“What we are hearing from our substitutes, they want to work,” she said. “Their concern is if we go virtual, will there be work for them?”

She noted that many area substitutes have not worked since schools closed — and switched to virtual learning — with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in mid March. If school doors do not physically open as scheduled for the 2020-2021 school year, Williams said that will undoubtedly lead to more lost work for substitutes.

“They rely on that work, a lot of them as their sole income,” Serafini noted.

Williams explained how the Guest Teacher/Education Major Training program works.

An individual who has a four-year degree in any field is eligible to sign up to for training to become a guest teacher, or substitute.

Education major training — to also become a substitute — is open to college students who have completed certain coursework criteria in the education field, but have not yet earned a teaching degree. Typically, Williams said college juniors and seniors are eligible for the program.

Three times per year, Williams said CSIU offers a two-day training for those signed up for the Guest Teacher/Education Major Training.

“We just had a training on July 16,” Williams said. “We have a total of 14 participants, which I was really happy about. That was 14 additional people who can be substitutes.”

The July training session was held virtually, rather than in person as past trainings have been held.

After completing the training, CSIU applies to the state for emergency certificates permitting those who completed the course to serve as substitutes.

With the certificates in hand, the individuals are eligible to substitute for teachers through CSIU programs, or for the 17 school districts served by the intermediate unit.

Those who complete the program can choose which school districts they wish to substitute in, and are contacted by the individual districts as the need for substitutes arise.

“Districts, essentially, become competitors for their services,” Serafini said. “Each individual district that employs substitutes, they have different wages... Some districts that pay more might be attracting more substitutes.”

For example, he said one school district may pay substitutes $80 per day, while another may pay $115.

“We love our guest teachers,” Williams said. “Even though they don’t have teaching degrees, they are great people. They get to know the programs, the students.”

Serafini said those who complete the training come from a variety of backgrounds.

“Some of them are retirees who’ve just been in an entirely different (career) field, they just got done with their career and wanted to give back,” he said. “We’ve had people who are physician assistants and people who worked in banks.”

Currently, he said about 71 people who completed the program are on CSIU’s substitute list. Additional individuals are on lists of potential substitutes for area school districts.

Williams said support staff members and paraprofessionals with four-year degrees who work for CSIU have been encouraged to complete the training. As a result, when one of CSIU’s teachers are off, a support staff member or paraprofessional can substitute for them.

CSIU’s next Guest Teacher/Education Major Training session is scheduled for Oct. 8-9.

For more information on the program, visit

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email