Schools scramble for long-term solutions to substitute teacher shortage

Carol E. Corker


EVERETT, Wash. — Over the past few months, Nathan Roberts has witnessed dozens of substitute teachers stumble through their first days at Penny Creek Elementary School.

He’s watched them circle the parking lot outside, wondering whether to leave their car in a visitor or employee spot. He’s encountered subs in the hallway, looking for the library or a place to make copies of classwork. And he’s noticed when they struggle to remember a kid’s name while taking attendance or praising students for good work.

Roberts is a substitute, too, but by now he knows his way around campus. Unlike the other subs — many of them parent volunteers or people looking for a little extra work — he’s a full-time, salaried employee with health benefits and a long-term contract with Everett Public Schools, north of Seattle. In January, the school district hired Roberts and about two dozen other “floaters” as part of a broader effort to improve the quality of substitute teaching and alleviate a staffing crunch that grew dire during this winter’s Covid-19 surge.


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