NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – School districts around the state continue to battle staffing shortages by incentivizing recruitment of teachers, bus drivers and maintenance staff, but they also need more substitutes. 

And finding those substitutes can also be a challenge. 

Substitute teachers are utilized in the classroom when teachers need time off for illnesses, bereavement, parental leave or other reasons. They can be retired teachers, young professionals or even high school graduates, as long as they pass a background check and follow any district-specific guidance for employment. 

Metro Nashville Public Schools employs multiple categories of substitutes, including permanent substitutes and substitute support positions. According to MNPS Executive Officer of Communications Sean Braisted, the permanent substitute position allows an individual to become a full-time employee with the school and able to fill in for a teacher as needed while also “becoming a part of the climate and culture of the school.” 

Braisted said the district operates with a large pool of substitutes, meaning the district will always accept applications for substitutes. Those subs fulfill a vital role in supporting the students and staff of MNPS, providing instructional support for students in the classroom or filling in in the cafeteria or library as an extra set of hands. 

Substitute teacher pay in Metro Nashville ranges from $100 to $145 per day depending on the role and qualifications of the individual. 

Substitute support persons with a high school diploma or equivalent can earn $100 per day, including a $15 daily incentive for working the full 7.5 hour day. 

Substitute teachers start at $120 per 7.5-hour day for those with at least a high school diploma or equivalent, $130 per day for someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher but not a teaching certificate and $145 per day for someone with a valid Tennessee teaching license. All rates also include an incentive pay amount for working the full day. 

Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools likes to have around 500 people ready to serve as a substitute if the need arises, according to CMCSS Chief Communications Officer Anthony Johnson. 

At the moment, however, Johnson said the district only has around 250 substitutes for its nearly 2,600 teachers. That number is more substitutes than the district had for the 2021-2022 school year, he added. 

The number of subs in Clarksville was significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson told News 2. 

“The pandemic appears to have had a significant effect on substitute recruitment and retention,” he said. “In 2019-2020, CMCSS had almost 425 active substitutes. In 2021-2021, that pool decreased around 50% to 216, and the district has not yet returned to a pre-pandemic substitute pool.” 

Pay rates for substitutes in Clarksville start at $12 per hour for someone with a high school diploma or equivalent or a college degree. An individual with an STEDI Substitute Certification or an expired teaching certification can make $12.50 per hour, and someone with a current teaching certification or someone who is a retired Tennessee teacher can make $16.50 per hour. 

That rate is also subject to change, according to Johnson, as the district is always evaluating its compensation in order to retain and recruit employees. 

Smaller school districts also face recruitment shortfalls for their substitutes following the onset of the pandemic. Tullahoma City Schools in Coffee County told News 2 it saw its number of available subs shrink from 2020 to 2021. 

“Like every school district in Tennessee, finding substitute teachers is a challenge,” the district said in a statement. “During the 2019-2020 school year, prior to COVID-19, TCS had 49 substitute teachers; during the 2020-2021 school year, that number shrunk to 27 teachers.” 

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Currently, the district has 30 substitute teachers already approved and another 11 new candidates. 

Over the last year, Tullahoma has made a concerted effort to recruit more subs, including raising the rate of pay for subs in December 2021. Non-certified substitutes will earn $75 per day; Certified, $90; and retired teachers $115 for their work as a substitute in Tullahoma. 

Like Clarksville and Nashville, Tullahoma keeps its job posting for substitutes open. To apply for a substitute teaching position, visit your local school district’s website and inquire about the requirements.