Tell Your Substitute Story

Teacher Absences & Subs

How celebration and communication can help solve your substitute shortage.


A little marketing can go a long way toward alleviating your substitute shortage.

Marketing? Really?


Of course, there’s a little more to it. Let’s say you’ve been following our series of posts on creating a substitute program that truly makes a difference for your students, substitutes and teachers. You’ve seen how important it is to treat your substitutes like the educators they are. You’ve taken steps to communicate your goals and milestones and invited them to own your organization’s mission and vision. You’ve welcomed them into your community, created a substitute-friendly environment and put a structure in place for direction and accountability.

As a result, every day your substitutes excel at their difficult job. They step into unfamiliar settings and bring energy and passion to education. They manage classrooms of students who may not always exhibit a burning desire to learn.

Your substitutes are filling a crucial role with excellence. Now your job is to make sure people know  about it.

Celebrate and communicate

When your team wins the championship, you’re going to wear the t-shirt. When a candidate wins an election, there’s sure to be a victory party. When good things happen, you want to tell people.

And as human beings, when we’re recognized by other people, we respond. We tend to be more engaged, happier, more likely to be satisfied with our jobs and more likely to stay in them.

So when your substitutes do an amazing job, celebrate them. Encourage them — and encourage others to do the same. An effective story is one of your most powerful tools to boost recruiting and retention. Weave it throughout your organization.

How do you tell that story?

Do you have a story you want to tell? Maybe it’s getting the word out about a substitute who has had a particular impact on students. Or maybe you want to recognize substitutes for the role they’ve played in filling long-term teacher absences.

Two questions to ask as you consider how to begin:

What does this story really say? Does it portray substitutes as the educators that they are? Does it tie into my district’s mission and vision? Does it celebrate the men and women who choose to substitute each day? It may be fine to celebrate a 100% fill rate, but be sure you tell that story in a way that recognizes your substitutes for the work they’re doing that contributes to your school’s mission.

Through what medium will you tell it? If you exile this story to the substitute newsletter, will anyone other than substitutes see it? Instead, think about where you shout your banner headlines, your most important, above-the-fold school or district news. Those are great places to start.

Here are a few concrete examples for how to get started:

  • Put pictures of your substitutes on your school website, and showcase the importance of their role.
  • Instead of behind closed doors, recognize your best substitutes at board meetings where there is a more public presence.
  • Pay for a substitute to spend a half day talking about substitute teaching at a job fair. Find other ways to involve substitutes in recruiting.
  • Publish stories of successful substitutes online and in your district newsletter.

As you continue to recruit substitute teachers, look beyond your district for places to tell your substitute stories. Is there a university in your town, or an industry drawing a large number of job candidates? Those are prime places to use the power of story to market substitute teaching positions.

Stories inspire. They draw people in. They make us want to be a part of something. And they can be found anywhere — now you just have to tell them.

What are your ideas for telling your substitute stories? Share them with us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.

Cydney Miller

Cydney is a Solutions Consulting Manager for Frontline Education, a leading provider of K-12 employee management software. Cydney most recently served as the HR Director at Clarksville-Montgomery County School System in Tennessee. She is committed to supporting school districts with their strategic human capital managementn needs, including staffing, HR and substitute fulfillment.