Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV is providing a solution to the shortage of substitute teachers.
By VERONICA GORLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
GROVE CITY, Pa. -- After substitute teaching for just a few months, Kathleen Peloza decided it was time to go back to school.
She wanted to become a teacher.
Peloza, 43, received emergency substitute teaching certification through Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV in Grove City, and the opportunity changed her career.
"Getting the emergency certification allowed me the opportunity to get into the classroom, and it really had inspired me to go back to school and get my teaching license," she said.
The Enon Valley resident received a bachelor's degree in history from South Dakota State University and a master's from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.
Peloza, who took some education classes at both schools, said her family background is in teaching: Her father, both of her grandmothers, her great-aunt and her great-grandmother were all educators.
In 1999, Peloza wanted to become a substitute teacher, but she was unable to substitute in Pennsylvania because she did not have a teaching license. At that time, the state required substitutes to be certified teachers.
She saw an ad in the paper for Unit IV's emergency substitute-teaching certification program and signed up for the February 2000 workshop.
"The training session was very valuable," she said. "It opens your eyes to what's going on currently and what you have to be aware of in the classroom."
After receiving emergency certification, she began subbing.
"I really enjoyed being around the kids," she said.
Peloza went back to school in fall 2000 to become a certified teacher. By December, she will have her teaching license.
Sessions: The workshop Peloza attended was the first one offered by Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV, an education service agency serving schools in Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties. Since then, it has held three more sessions.
Through Unit IV's emergency substitute consortium, potential subs attend a three-day training session and then apply to the state for an emergency substitute license. With certification through the unit, substitutes can teach in any school district participating in the consortium.
Another option is to pursue certification through individual school districts, which allows substitutes to teach only in the district through which they apply.
According to Ron Monaco, director of Continuing Professional Education for Unit IV, the consortium effort has been in effect in Pennsylvania for three years. Approximately 22 of the 27 public schools in Unit IV take part in the consortium.
"It allows more people to be available for more districts," Monaco said. "It's geared to anybody who does not have a current teaching certificate but wishes to fill in the classroom on a day-to-day basis."
Requirements: Candidates for the program must possess a bachelor's degree in any field, but a Pennsylvania teaching certificate is not required. Substitutes completing the program may teach any grade level in any subject area, but the certification does not permit long-term use, meaning an emergency sub could not spend 15 days on one assignment, said Monaco. Additionally, it is only usable for the school year it is issued, although substitutes may renew certification for the next school year through the unit.
At the workshop, Unit IV personnel and school officials present topics such as classroom management, the stages of development in children, special education, instructional strategies and school procedures and routines.
"There is no state mandate on what to include on the agenda," Monaco said. "Our agenda focuses on people skills because you have to deal with kids and teachers all day."
Sherry Bulisco of New Castle completed the workshop in December and thinks it is a good program.
"There have been good experiences and bad experiences, but overall it has been good," she said.
Bulisco said she received calls to substitute teach almost every day after she received certification.
To participate in the workshop, candidates must pay a $50 fee for the training session and a $15 application fee to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. They also need to pass background checks and take a physical. For more information, contact Unit IV at (724) 458-6700, Ext. 267.
Districts in Ohio are offering similar programs to increase the pool of substitute teachers.
Other options: Germaine Bennett, executive director of human relations for the Youngstown city schools, can arrange for people with their bachelor's degree to receive temporary substitute teaching licenses and renewals for a five-year period from the state, provided they pass standard drug tests and background checks. The temporary license permits substitutes to teach in any school district -- public or private -- in the state.
Bennett also tries encouraging retired teachers to return to the classroom as substitutes. According to the Ohio Department of Education, legislation in July 2000 reduced the 18-month waiting period for educators to return to the classroom after retirement to 60 days. Bennett added that incentives to encourage subs to continue teaching in the district are in the works.
"Substituting is not the greatest job in the world, but it is interesting," Peloza said. "You have to be prepared for anything. It's always a challenge."