Board of Education changes substitute teacher requirements

Ximena Leon, sophomore in elementary education, obtained her substitute teaching license before the change in requirements. (Photo courtesy of Ximena Leon)

The Kansas Department of Education announced in a press release that the Kansas State Board of Education approved an emergency declaration allowing any individual who meets the qualifications to apply for a Temporary Emergency Authorized License (TEAL).

The move comes after multiple schools had to cancel classes because of teaching shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A typical substitute license requires that you’ve completed a teacher education program,” Diane Murphy, licensing officer for the College of Education, said. “So it’s somebody that has completed our bachelor’s program, and that has gone through teacher ed, has done student teaching — all of that — that is a substitute teacher.”

Murphy said the changes would be more like having an emergency substitute teacher in the classroom.

“An emergency substitute teacher is somebody that has completed 60 hours of college credit,” Murphy said. “Now it’s kind of like an emergency-emergency substitute teacher.”

The emergency declaration removes the 60-credit-hour requirement. However, the press release states that candidates for the TEAL must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, be fingerprinted and pass a background check and have a verified employment commitment from a district or system.

“With the big demand for people to substitute in the school that’s been happening in the last year or two, the state department is trying to meet that need,” Murphy said. “The Kansas State Department of Education has put together an emergency way to help get some more people in the classroom to cover to keep schools going.”

Any TEAL obtained through the emergency declaration will expire June 1, 2022. Therefore, substitute candidates will have to meet the more rigorous requirements after that date.

“We’re in a place right now where the options are very limited, and people are coming up with really unique ways to try to cover an ugly situation,” Murphy said. “Hopefully, someday we’ll get to the point where teachers are respected, and we won’t be begging people to come and work in the schools.”

Ximena Leon, sophomore in elementary education, obtained her substitute teaching license before the change in requirements.

“It’s going more from an educator world to a monitoring world when you’re talking about substituting,” Leon said. “That’s what infuriates me a little bit, that I’ve had to work this hard to earn my 60 credit hours. I was really excited to hit 61, and then they took that rule away.”

However, Leon said an individual fresh out of high school substituting for a class of high school seniors is the only potential conflict she sees.

“If you’re 19 years old and you’re subbing for a high school senior class, the classroom management that you’re going to have is not going to be very effective because you’ll probably let a lot of things slide, and it could cause a lot of problems,” Leon said. “I don’t even know if I would be able to do that at this age. I’m 20 years old. I wouldn’t have that discipline and that confidence in myself.”

Despite the challenges, Leon said she is still excited to become a teacher.

“I think it encourages me more to be an educator of change and be an educator that is raising students that are going to have high standards for themselves,” Leon said. “I’m really excited to work with kids.”

Leon, who is also a para in the Manhattan School District, said the school’s culture has become more sorrowful.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of students isolate themselves, not even to avoid COVID, just to isolate themselves,” Leon said. “There’s not nearly as much community. Everyone is afraid to be together, or even kids have just found that they’re better alone. That sense of community that was there when I was a kid is just not always as present.”

Murphy said she hopes someday there will be more teachers than needed rather than the current situation.

“We need people out there that are willing to go into the classrooms: what we’re finding is that a lot of people are finding out that it really is kind of a cool job, and maybe education is a place for them,” Murphy said.

Individuals interested in applying for a TEAL should reach out to their local school district to complete an application.