How to Recruit & Retain Substitute Teachers

Updated: Aug 16

Is your recruiting strategy getting the job done?


At HelloSubs, we've filled thousands of substitute teacher assignments. We've seen what works, what doesn't, why some subs last, and why others don't. I'll give you a hint: there is more to it than pay rate.



Pay rate gets a lot of attention


As it should. Your school’s substitute pay rate needs to be competitive with other schools, and similar jobs in your city. This may seem obvious, but many schools haven't reviewed their pay rates for years. This is especially important during times of high inflation. Look beyond schools when seeking information for comparable pay rates and consider what other "gig" and entry-level jobs pay in your area. For example, if fast-food restaurants are paying $17/hour, you should be paying at least that much.

Pay frequency is also critical. Weekly paychecks are almost standard, and some companies pay even faster!

It’s important to remember that a teacher shortage can't be fixed with money. Raising your pay rate beyond the market rate can get you more substitutes in the short-term, but money isn’t the only factor to consider.


Are you supporting and appreciating your subs?


Now, more than ever, it's important that we attract new, prospective teachers to this incredible career. We find that about one-third of new substitutes are trying out teaching to see if it is a good fit for them. What do you want their first impression to be?

Example 1: Substitute Ben arrives at his first assignment 15 minutes early, bright eyed and bushy tailed. He introduces himself at the front desk, but no one is expecting him. He tells the office manager that he's covering for Mrs. Smith and so the manager hands him a key, points in the direction of Mrs. Smith's class, and wishes him a great day.

Example 2: Ben introduces himself at the front desk. A senior team member comes to greet Ben and takes him on a quick tour of the campus. During the tour, he is supplied with important contact information, keys, and introduced to the teacher of the classroom next door. The tour ends at Ben’s assigned classroom where the lesson plan and important items for the day are presented to him. The team member tells Ben how much they appreciate him.

In our experience, substitutes leave because of the challenges of the job and lack of support, not just pay rate. You need to build an enjoyable and inclusive environment where subs can feel like they are part of your team. Your school culture needs to be a place they want to be a part of. There is no downside, and it helps your chances they might apply for a permanent position!


Embracing flexibility


Look at any job board in America and you'll find plenty of entry level teaching jobs. These are generally full-time positions that can lead to a permanent teaching post. This is perfect for someone that is looking for full-time work and wants to be a teacher, but unfortunately there just aren't enough of those people looking.


Over the last few years there has been a shift to more flexible work opportunities, and it is important that schools adapt to take advantage of this. Many great candidates aren't available full-time because of family obligations, school, other jobs, or simply the desire for more flexibility. According to US labor bureau statistics, in July 2022 there were 55 million gig workers, and 25 million part-time workers in the United States. Schools that utilize this work force will win the staffing game.


Community outreach


Individuals that have existing relationships with your school can be an excellent pool to recruit substitutes from. Parents, alumni, neighbors, and others within your community often would love to be a part of your team if you make it easy for them to get involved. You don't need to recruit from a position of desperation (“Help, we don't have enough substitutes!”). Instead, share pictures and videos of other substitutes and the impact they are making. HelloSubs can help you organize this kind of recruitment campaign.


Take care of your teachers, and they will take care of your students.

HelloSubs is building the future of substitute teaching by combining great people, excellent support, and leading-edge technology. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can support your substitute program.