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Substitute teachers in high demand as COVID-19 continues

Roland Lizarondo
Samantha Mohn substitute teaching at Montgomery Middle Magnet School, Linda Vista, CA November 3, 2021

The COVID-19 shutdown and continuing uncertain job market has left many San Diego County school districts scrambling for teachers. Substitute teachers are in high demand in order for districts to maintain state-required coverage in classrooms.

Samantha Mohn, who her students call Miss Sam, is a new substitute teacher, this week, at Montgomery Middle School in Linda Vista. She is teaching 7th grade social studies class. It’s a long way from the law firm job she used to have. The COVID-19 pandemic left her wanting more for her future.

“This job helps me see the real issues kids are facing today and I can see what I can do to help and honestly I can also see the holes in the education system, then when I get my degree I can be the bridge to fix those gaps,” Mohn said.

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A map of San Diego County displays daily wages of substitute teachers at three different school districts.

She hopes to enter a master’s degree program in education next year. For the moment, she is substitute teaching full time.

The San Diego Unified School District requires a bachelor’s degree in any subject area and a state 30-day emergency teaching permit. The district is looking for qualified college graduates because COVID confusion and uncertainty has emptied the teaching pool. A sub job used to pay about $125 a day. Now the daily pay rate has jumped significantly in San Diego and many other districts.

San Diego Unified starts at $172 a day up to $285 a day for a long-term resident sub. In the Escondido Union High School District Poway Unified School District the pay rate range is $180-$200 daily. In the San Ysidro Unified School District the pay is at a high of $225-$285 a day.

Acacia Thede is the Chief Human Resources Officer for San Diego Unified. She said,“We’re all looking for substitute teachers, bus drivers, para-educators and those folks who work directly with our students. If you have a passion for kids, any district in the County would love to have you.”


In August, California Governor Newsom issued an executive order designed to help fill teaching positions.The order provided more flexibility for retired teachers and school staff to return to fill short-term staffing shortages. Retired staff can assist schools impacted by rising case rates caused by the Delta variant to stay safely and fully open. Usually there is a six month waiting period.

Substitute teachers are in high demand at all San Diego County school districts

Montgomery Middle School principal Sarah Trueblood is always recruiting and sharing information with other principals about potential substitute teachers. She encourages any college graduate to apply for a position. She told KPBS News, “Subs are always working with someone else in the classroom at least 50% of the day. You’re not just thrown in on your own.”

Samantha Mohn will finish her assignment at Montgomery Middle School Friday then look forward to her next job at another school. “It’s a really hard career but it’s super rewarding,” she reflected, “it’s the little things I learn every day that I need to focus on. Those are what keep me going.”