Nov 29th, 2018 @ 11:28 am | Author: Joan Klein
The elementary education program at Valley City State University has brought its unique Substitute Teacher Program to the Valley City Public Schools this fall. Through the substitute program, VCSU junior and senior elementary education majors will spend eight Fridays each semester as substitute co-teachers at Washington and Jefferson schools.

Each Friday, 16 VCSU students, paired in groups of two, cover eight classrooms at the elementary schools, and the Valley City Public School teachers use the time away for professional development opportunities.

While the classroom teacher is out for the day, two university students lead the elementary students through their daily routines, educational activities and learning plans. Working as a pair, the VCSU preservice teachers are able to connect theory to practice, applying what they are learning in teacher education courses to the practical classroom. A VCSU education professor supervises the university students all day, providing support, answering questions and helping the student substitute teachers make connections. This real-world opportunity leads to rich discussions and teachable moments back on campus.

The Substitute Program provides a great opportunity for local schools in two different areas. Because substitute teachers can be difficult to find, the program develops a new pool of candidates professionally trained to fulfill this high-need position. VCSU students are encouraged to apply for their substitute teaching licenses while gaining this valuable experience, and after effectively completing six Fridays, students are encouraged to substitute teach throughout North Dakota.

To encourage and facilitate substitute teaching, VCSU developed a new class schedule. Many seniors have three days free of classes each week, so they are available to substitute in area schools once they have completed the Substitute Teacher Program. These opportunities occur before their formal Student Teaching program and positively impact their readiness for that experience.

Another advantage of the Substitute Teacher Program is the professional development component. Because the college students are not paid—substitute teachers typically cost $120 a day—the public schools can afford to spend the day training a large group of their teachers without incurring additional expense. Grade-level teams can meet for a productive amount of time, meeting a variety of their needs. Teachers may receive technology support, develop new content, analyze their support programming, incorporate specialized training and collaborate with administration.

Although new to Valley City Public Schools, VCSU began the implementation of its Substitute Teacher Program in 2014 in the West Fargo Public Schools, under the direction of Sheri Okland, Ph.D., now associate professor and dean of the School of Education and Graduate Studies at VCSU.

Along with Valley City, the substitute program has also been brought to Fargo Public Schools this fall. Yvonne Cannon, VCSU instructor of education, directs the program in Fargo and West Fargo, and Joan Klein, assistant professor of education, leads the Valley City program.