DESE changes requirements to become substitute teacher

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COLUMBIA - Missouri’s Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) approved new requirements to become a substitute teacher earlier this week.

In a news release from August 18, DESE officials said applicants with a high school diploma or equivalent can complete a 20-hour, state-approved substitute teacher online training to be eligible for a substitute certificate.

The original option for getting certified required 60 semester hours or more of college-level credit from a DESE-approved institution.

Paul Katnik, the assistant commissioner for the Office of Educator Quality at DESE, said the changes are due to the pandemic and a general shortage in substitute teachers.

“More and more of our school districts are having problems getting the subs that they need, and then along comes a pandemic. It's a health issue and so you're going to have not only people themselves sick, but family members sick that they have to take care for, or whatever, quarantine,” said Katnik. “Suddenly it looks like the demand for subs goes up and already the supply was kind of down.”

Kathy Steinhoff, the president of the Columbia Missouri National Education Association and a CPS teacher said she is disappointed by the requirement changes.

“We know that having a high quality teacher in the classroom is one of the biggest indicators of achievement and when a teacher is not able to be in their classroom we need to make sure that we have somebody that can step into that position that is also of high quality,” Steinhoff said.

Katnik said this emergency rule was being planned for a while and the response since the news release has been mostly positive.

“The response we have seen since the news release comes out sounds like a lot of people who are like, 'I’ll pitch in and help. I want to do this,'” said Katnik. “And that's part of what we wanted to see is really take advantage of an opportunity to call attention to a need and see if people will respond to it.”

DESE officials said the alternative 20-hour training program is for people who may not be able to complete 60-hours of college credit and has all the training tools for becoming a good sub, such as professionalism, diversity, engaging students, and so on.

Columbia Public Schools Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark said the new changes give the district more options.

“The new guidelines from DESE will certainly give the school district more options to consider,” said Baumstark. “The district is actively working on training substitutes in the substitute pool on our learning management system so they are prepared for the fall as well as providing health and safety best practices training with regard to COVID-19.”

The changes in requirements take efferct on September 2. For more information on this emergency rule, go to DESE’s website.