New online training program prepares UNK students to substitute teach

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney is offering free online training for students interested in substitute teaching.

“Substitute Teaching: What You Should Know and Do” is a concentrated course that focuses specifically on preparing students who want to pursue the position.

Wendy McCarty
Wendy McCarty

“This is something that hasn’t been offered to our students before,” said Wendy McCarty, an associate professor in UNK’s Department of Teacher Education and director of the Transitional Certification Program.

Supported by a College of Education Technology Committee Teaching Innovation Award, the training is part of a three-semester pilot program launched this spring.

It’s open to undergraduate and graduate students from any field, as well as people enrolled in the Transitional Certification Program, which provides an alternative pathway for individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher who want to become certified teachers. UNK faculty can also sign up for the training to enhance their teaching skills.

Developed by Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston, Texas, the online training module serves as an introduction to substitute teaching, focusing on areas such as classroom activities and management techniques, student-teacher interactions, discipline, lesson planning and standards of practice. Participants, who complete the training at their own pace, will learn what to expect as a brand-new substitute teacher.

“This training presents a whole menu of things to start thinking about prior to their first substitute teaching experience,” McCarty said.

Nebraska allows people with at least 60 credit hours of college coursework, including one professional education course, to apply for a local substitute teaching permit.

For undergraduate students, substitute teaching is an opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience and develop confidence in the classroom earlier in their college career.

Rebecca Nelson
Rebecca Nelson

“It’s also a really great way to get to know the local school districts and administrators,” said Rebecca Nelson, an assistant professor in UNK’s Department of Teacher Education and the Transitional Certification Program.

That networking can help students land a full-time job after graduation.

Plus, Nelson noted, substitute teaching is a good-paying part-time job for college students. And the demand for substitutes is typically high across the state.

“It’s hard for districts to find teachers, period,” McCarty said.

Although the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted the way schools operate, eliminating face-to-face classes for the time being, McCarty says the training program is good preparation for when they return to normal educational practices.

The UNK program is accepting up to 20 participants each semester in spring 2020, fall 2020 and spring 2021.

For more information or to sign up for the free training, contact McCarty at 308-865-8971 or or Nelson at 308-865-8871 or