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Some districts using emergency substitutes who don't need teacher certifications

Some districts using emergency substitutes who don't need teacher certifications
Some districts using emergency substitutes who don't need teacher certifications 02:49

UNIONTOWN, Pa. (KDKA) - Schools across the commonwealth are not only experiencing a teacher shortage but also a need for substitute teachers.  

While many are working to recruit substitutes, some are turning to bringing in emergency certified substitute teachers.  

According to the state Department of Education, if a person does not have the proper teacher certification but has a bachelor's degree, a school district can hire you by requesting an emergency permit.  

In addition to a bachelor's degree, a person must undergo a background check, including a Department of Human Services child abuse history clearance, criminal records check and federal criminal history record information. 

But KDKA is learning some emergency certified substitutes could have little to no experience in a classroom. 

"They should have a good bit of experience if you're going to be teaching in a classroom and teaching our kids," said Tracy Blakely, a grandparent to a Fayette County student. 

Schools that cannot find substitute teachers, emergency certified or not, could experience even bigger problems.  

According to the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), it could lead to an even bigger teacher shortage.  

"What we have heard from our members over the past school year was it was the toughest school year of their careers and that was largely because of this lack of substitute teachers," said Chris Lilienthal, PSEA assistant director of communications. "Teachers are coming into school and finding that they have half of another classroom in their class because there aren't enough substitutes to fill in for absent colleagues that day. Or they're finding that they're losing their prep period. So, they're losing their lunch periods and burnout in stress levels are just very high among teachers right now and that's a big reason why."   

The superintendent at the Connellsville Area School District said the advantage of emergency certified teachers is bringing in real-world experience.  

But some parents told KDKA on Tuesday they're concerned about how a substitute with no experience in the classroom could affect their kids.  

"I think a lot of kids see substitutes as, 'Oh cool. It's a free day. We're going to watch movies. We're not going to do anything,'" said Lexi Bakos, a mother of a fourth grade Albert Gallatin student.  

KDKA asked the PSEA if emergency certified substitutes are more like babysitters in the classroom. 

"I wouldn't call them babysitters. I think day-to-day substitutes work very closely with the teachers that they're filling in for to make sure that the assignments are consistent with the overall lesson plans that the teacher has envisioned," Lilienthal said.  

"You're in between a rock and a hard place because you either have a major shortage and classrooms that are way too big, the ratios are way off and the child is going to suffer from that and not enough one-on-one with the teacher, but then you have the flip side where they don't have any experience with education," Bakos said.  

Uniontown Area School District's curriculum coordinator said 29% of the district's substitute teachers are currently emergency certified.  

They, and surrounding districts, said they're always looking for more subs and emergency certified substitutes.  

Each district has their own training for those entering the field for the first time, including behavioral management and instructional tips for the classroom.  

For more information on becoming an emergency certified substitute, click here.

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