77-year-old former metro principal helping fill substitute teacher shortage


LEAWOOD, Kan. — As districts decide whether or not to resume in person classes, one factor they’ll have to weigh is the availability of substitute teachers.

Missouri is lowering the requirements needed for teachers to get certified to try to keep up with the likely increased demand and reduced supply.

Previously in Missouri, the state granted a certificate to an individual who had completed a minimum of 60 semester hours of credit from a regionally accredited, academic degree-granting, college or university.

Now the same certificate requires a high school diploma, General Education Diploma (GED) or High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) and successfully completing a minimum of 20 clock hours of department-approved substitute teacher training that includes professionalism, honoring diversity, engaging students, foundational classroom management techniques, basic instructional strategies, supporting students with special needs, and working with at-risk youth. 

In Kansas, substitutes must hold a degree and have completed a teacher preparation program in order to qualify.

​Whether students are doing in-person or distance learning, unlike the spring, most teachers are now in their classrooms conducting classes. That means even if they are teaching online, districts will need subs. 

Barry White, who spent 42 years as principal of the Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, is helping to fill the need. He’s substitute teaching at all grade levels in both Kansas and Missouri. 

“Once I got away from working with kids on a daily basis, I just really missed it,” White said.

Subs have always had to easily adapt and be quick learners, but that’s probably never been more so the case than now.

“I took my first middle school job in the district last week, thinking it was face-to-face, and I walked in to distance teaching,” White said.

Different districts use different virtual platforms, meaning the 77-year-old has had to learn Zoom, Schoology, Google Classroom and others on the fly.

He realizes schools had other priorities getting full-time teachers up to speed, especially with many making final decisions keeping students at home late in the summer. White said they’re now starting to get around to providing more instruction to the subs.

In the five years he’s subbed, he said he’s never got so many calls from schools trying to fill positions. Districts might be able to get by for a day or two doubling up virtual classrooms, but a 14-day teacher quarantine will be a different story. 

The 77-year-old said he has no problem teaching in person during the pandemic, which some subs don’t want to do.

“I was really surprised when I started doing this how engaging it could be, and the kids are so ready to come back and learn,” White said.

He likes the individualized teaching that’s more possible for smaller classrooms in the hybrid model.

Whether the students are in the classroom with him or not, he said nothing beats, “walking out of that building and feeling like you did something that mattered.”



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