Substitute teachers: valuable members of the education profession

On any given school day in the United States (U.S.), substitute teachers staff approximately 274,000 classrooms. (Source: Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University). In fact, it is estimated that the typical student in the U.S. spends over 80 days of their K-12 school career with a substitute teacher.

At a time when expectations for student achievement have never been higher, students cannot afford to lose a day of instruction when the regular classroom teacher is absent. Substitute teachers should be part of an overall effort in the school to provide seamless, quality instruction for students. Unfortunately, many schools struggle with this issue due to a substitute teacher shortage. This is true nationally, as well as in Iowa. Some states require only a high school diploma to become a substitute teacher, while others require a teaching degree. In Iowa, anyone who meets the following criteria is eligible to receive substitute authorization:

  • Has one of the following: holds a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, OR has completed an approved Paraeducator Certification Program and holds a Paraeducator Certificate,
  • Is a minimum of 21 years old,
  • Has successfully completed an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation background check and a National Criminal History background check, and
  • Has successfully completed all the requirements of an approved Substitute Authorization course.

Earning substitute authorization credentials allows an individual to substitute only in a middle school, junior high, or high school for no more than five consecutive days in one job assignment at a time. Certified paraeducators who also have substitute credentials can substitute teach only in the special education classroom in which the paraeducator is employed. This applies to all grade levels, including elementary.

Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267) offers a state approved Substitute Authorization course. The focus of this 20-hour course is to provide participants with instructional strategies and classroom management techniques, which allow the substitute to carry out the lesson plan of the regular classroom teacher and provide quality instruction for students.

If you have a desire to work with students and become a member of the education profession by becoming a substitute teacher, contact Linda Vann, AEA 267, Professional Development Trainer at 319-268-7695 or via email at


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