Pre-Hire and Post-Hire Questions

Pre-Hire Questions

Why would someone want to be a substitute teacher?

Many persons who are thinking about teaching as a career find that working as a substitute teacher gives them valuable insights into the teaching profession. Some retired teachers want to continue to teach and work with children. Some people want to find out more about the schools and the educational process from which their children benefit. But all have one thing in common: a desire to work with children and youth and to share in the exhilaration that comes from the teaching/learning experience.

Where can I find the information on qualifications, salary, and application procedures for substitute employment?

What are the steps in becoming a substitute teacher?

  1. Complete the on-line application.
  2. Follow the instructions in the email confirmation to make appointment for processing with the substitute office.
  3. We will need you to bring the following documents completed when you come back to pick up your substitute badge:
    1. I-9 form
      NISD participates in E-Verify, a program managed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and The Social Security Administration (SSA). Federal Law requires us to attest to your Identity and your eligibility to work in the U.S. Please bring original or certified documents from the List of Acceptable Documents (listed on back of I-9 form). You must bring either a document from either List A or a combination of documents from List B and List C, e.g. Driver’s License and Social Security Card. In addition to presenting the actual documents to us, you must provide a copy of the documents for your employee file.
    2. W-4 Form
      Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate
    3. TRS Form
      Social Security/Retirement Benefits Reporting Form
    4. Direct Deposit form
      Please attach either a voided check or a Bank Direct Deposit Form (No deposit slips!)
  4. Obtain official college transcripts or a copy of teacher certification.
  5. Bring all documents to the substitute office on application processing dates.
  6. At that time the substitute office staff will provide you with information
    • on completing the state-required fingerprinting procedure
    • about signing up for the required online orientation
  7. After you have successfully completed the orientation, you will report to the substitute office to:
    • Finalize your paperwork
    • Get your photo ID
    • Receive your Substitute Employee Handbook and three evaluations
  8. Some applicants will also be required to attend a (free) one-day training session prior to receiving the substitute ID badge. (Training is required for those persons who have never taught children before.)
    (You will not receive your Substitute Badge until your fingerprint results have cleared.)
  9. Once you have received your ID, you can register (over the phone) with the SmartFind Express system and begin searching for and accepting substitute teaching jobs.

Why do I have to attend an "Orientation" session?

All substitutes who are new to Northside ISD must complete the pre-service, on-line orientation which includes information about the roles and responsibilities of the substitute as well as the policies and procedures substitutes are expected to follow. Substitutes are also shown how to use the SmartFind Express system which is used to record employee absences and to find substitutes to fill the absences.

What is the difference between substitute teachers and para-professional substitutes?

Substitute teachers take the place of the regular teachers when they need to be absent. They have the full responsibility and authority of the regular teacher and are expected to carry out the teacher's lesson plans and maintain discipline in the classroom. A paraprofessional substitute takes the place of instructional assistants or office staff when they are absent. They will always have a professional staff member to assist them in carrying out their duties.

What is expected of substitute teachers?

The essential roles and responsibilities of the substitute teacher are detailed in the NISD Substitute Teacher Handbook which will be given to NISD substitutes once hired. Briefly stated, substitute teachers are expected to carry out two responsibilities: follow the regular teachers' lesson plans, and maintain discipline in the classroom at a level in which learning can take place. Additionally, we require that these two responsibilities will be carried out in a climate of respect and caring for the students.

What grade levels or subjects can I teach as a substitute?

Substitutes may choose to teach any subject or at any grade level they feel comfortable and competent with. When the substitutes complete the application, they are asked to specify these preferences which are then entered into the SmartFind Express system. The substitute’s availability or unavailability days can be set up by the substitute, and then later changed if needed.

Do substitutes have to teach at all the District schools?

No.  Some substitutes work at only a few schools within a specific geographic region close to their homes; others work only at the District's high schools or elementary schools. Their selection of schools is a part of the application process. (A facilities map and school directory are available to assist with the selection process.)

Can I substitute in bilingual classrooms if I speak a little Spanish?

No. The children in bilingual classrooms need for their teachers and assistants to be fluent in Spanish.

What is special education? Will I be able to substitute in classes with "special needs" children?

The special education training for substitutes webpage provides answers to some of your questions about special needs students.

If I decide that I want to work with students with special needs, will I receive any training before starting?

Yes—in fact, unless you are a certified special education teacher, you must attend our training program for substitute teachers and paraprofessionals, provided at no charge to interested substitutes. The training consists of two courses—one on-line offered by from the University of Utah, and the other provided in person by Northside specialists. You will be given information on how to sign up for this training after you have completed the application process.

Am I paid more for working in a special education classroom?

Yes. NISD pays an additional salary supplement of $10.00 for full day/$5.00 for a half day to Substitute Teachers, and $12.00 for full day/$6.00 for a half day to Paraprofessional Substitutes who work in Specialized Support SpecEd Classrooms.  However, you must be either SpecEd Certified or you must complete the two-part NISD SpecEd Training.

Will the substitute teachers be treated with respect? Can they expect any support from the school staff?

Northside ISD prides itself on having "family-friendly" schools. It is also a District priority to have "substitute-friendly schools." Substitute teachers can expect a high degree of support and assistance from all school personnel. Everyone is concerned for the success of our substitute teachers...even many of the students!

Where can I get additional information on becoming a full time, certified teacher?

One excellent source of information is the Texas Education Agency’s web page, Alternative certification programs (ACP’s).  In addition, you can contact your local college or university to get additional information on their programs of teacher certification.

Can retired employees be hired as substitutes? If so, are there any restrictions I should be aware of?

Yes, retired teachers and other former employees can be hired as substitutes—either as teachers or paraprofessionals. However, there may be certain restrictions regarding the number of days they can work as substitutes, depending on whether they are filling in for an absent employee or working in a vacant position. The retiree should always check with TRS before beginning work in order to ensure that they will not suffer any penalties or loss of benefits when working as a substitute.

Post-Hire Questions

After I substitute for a while, can I change the campuses and subjects taught?

The locations and classifications of subjects taught are a part of the Substitute's profile. It is the responsibility of the Substitute to keep up with this profile. If you want to modify your locations and classifications, please send an email to and include your full name and employee number. You need to be specific when requesting changes.  All other personal information, including your address and phone numbers, must be kept current. If you need to make changes to your address, phone number and/or personal email address, you must do so by logging into Employee Self Service.

I am having trouble with the SmartFind Express System. What do I do?

First, read the instructions in the Substitute Employee Handbook. The instructions are very thorough and clear. If you cannot remember your password, you must click on "Forgot Password" on the SFE log-in page. If you have other questions, regarding SFE, which are not already covered in the Handbook, you may send an email to the Sub Office at and be sure to include your full name and employee number.

What should substitute teachers do if they have to cancel a job they have already accepted?

Not a problem! Substitute teachers and their families get sick too. The important thing for the substitute to do is cancel the job as soon as possible so that the SmartFind Express System can begin finding another substitute for the job. A job can be canceled through the SmartFind Express System up until 6:00 a.m. on the day of the job.

Substitutes must be evaluated the first three times they accept jobs in the District. Are the completed evaluations available to the substitute?

The evaluations are available for viewing by substitutes in the Substitute Office. Additional information on NISD's substitute evaluation process is available in the Substitute Handbook.

Since one of the basic assumptions schools have for substitute teachers is that they will follow the teachers' lesson plans, what do subs do if the teacher has left no lesson plans for the substitute?

On rare occasions, a teacher may fail to leave lesson plans or leave plans that are inadequate for a substitute to carry out their duties as guest teacher. If this happens, the substitute should immediately SEEK HELP. Other teachers who teach the same grade level of subject matter will be able to assist the substitute. At the Elementary schools, grade level chairpersons can assist. At the High Schools, a department chairperson is always available for help. At the Middle School, Academic Team Leaders can assist the substitute with lesson plans and other instructional activities. In the unlikely event that none of these persons is available, the substitute should seek help from the office.

Are there other sources of information on lesson plans I can use in preparing for a particular substitute teaching assignment?

Yes, there are several internet sites you can visit that are very helpful in providing assistance in developing lesson plans. The lesson plans page is particularly worthwhile. But remember that teachers expect you to follow their lesson plans whenever possible.

How do substitutes prepare for the beginning of the day and what do they do when the students arrive in the classroom?

Every successful substitute teacher will say that the key to effective substitute teaching is to arrive early. In addition to an early arrival, there are numerous steps the substitute should take to prepare for a successful day of teaching. Most of these can be found in the sections of the K-12 Handbook for Substitute Teachers, published by Utah State University, titled, "Checklists for Subs," and "Expectations of Subs." (The Handbook is available in all school libraries, in the Professional Library at the Northside Activity Center, and may be purchased on-line.)

When substitute teachers have difficulty carrying out their duties, whether because of poor lesson plans or severe discipline problems, to whom can they turn for help?

The first and best source for assistance is the school administrators. These professionals are responsible for providing substitutes with the resources and support they need to succeed as guest teachers in their schools. Only if attempts to gain assistance from the school administrators have failed should the Substitute Office be contacted.

Should substitutes allow students to visit the school nurse every time they ask to do so? What if they are faking an illness to get out of class?

Substitutes should never deny a student's request to go to the nurse. It is the nurse's responsibility to determine whether or not a child is ill--not the substitute teacher's.

 What about restroom passes? Should substitutes let students go to the restroom every time they say they need to?

Each grade level has its own schedule for bathroom visits and the students are aware of the "restroom routine." If a child expresses a need to go to the bathroom at times outside of the established routine, substitutes should not deny them their requests, but instead should allow the visits and leave a note for the regular teacher regarding the requests. The teacher can follow up with the student later to determine whether or not the unusual requests suggest a medical or behavioral problem.

How are substitute teachers expected to handle discipline problems in the classroom?

Simply stated, substitutes are expected to handle discipline in a firm but fair manner, with consistency and respect for the children and youth under their care. They should be able to separate the students' behaviors from the students themselves. The training provided by Human Resources (see #1 above) gives numerous strategies for dealing with a wide variety of "discipline problems." The NISD Substitute Handbook stresses repeatedly that substitute teachers are never to use physical force with students. Nor should they use sarcasm with students, shout at the students, insult them, or otherwise verbally attack them. (See the Discipline section of NISD's Substitute Teacher Handbook or the website entitled, Discipline Help.  Access is free and this is a great source of reliable information about student behavior in the classroom.)

What do I do at the end of the day? Who dismisses the students?

Always leave a note for the teacher whose place you took (sample report form). The note should include feedback to the teacher on how the lesson plans were completed, as well as any information about students and student behavior that they need to know. As for the dismissal of students, the procedures will vary from instructional level to level. ALWAYS check with the office at the beginning of the day to find out what the dismissal procedures are for that campus.

I didn't sign up to substitute in a special education classroom. Why are there special education students in the regular classrooms?

The philosophy and strategies of inclusion and collaboration require that all students be educated in the "least restrictive environment" possible, so that special needs students are always included in the "regular" classroom to the fullest possible extent. Please read more about the topic of inclusion and collaborative instruction on the Special Education website.  If  you want to be better prepared to work with ALL students, including those with special needs, you are encouraged to sign up for the free, two-part training offered by NISD.

I would like to work more directly with students with special needs. Does NISD provide any training?

NISD offers a 2-Part training program for substitute employees at no cost. Succeeding with special-needs students training is offered several times during the year. Contact the Sub Office for the next available training date.

What is the legal liability of substitute teachers?

In 2003, the Texas Legislature signed into law S.B. 930 which extended to substitute teachers the same qualified (limited) immunity from legal liability afforded the regular classroom teacher under State statute. This immunity is guaranteed as long as substitute teachers are using discretion and good judgment in carrying out the duties and responsibilities assigned to them, and do not use unnecessary force in disciplining students, However, this immunity from legal liability does not extend to injuries involving motor vehicles nor to violations of a student's Constitutionally protected rights. (Texas Education Code, Chapter 22, Subchapter B, Section 22.051--amended) The No Child Left Behind Act also has a provision granting limited immunity to teachers acting in the scope of their duties and not using excessive force when disciplining students.

Can substitute teachers share their religious beliefs with students in the classroom?

Like other employees of the district, substitutes must maintain a posture of "neutrality" regarding religion in the classroom and in other activities and areas of the school. School employees shouldn't lead students in prayer or join them in any way other than to monitor their activities.  Substitutes should follow the teachers’ lesson plans and not introduce topics for discussion that may be disruptive or controversial. 

How do I continue working as a substitute from year to year?

Sometime near the end of each school year, active substitutes who have worked at least 2 days per month, will receive an email with the Letter of Reasonable Assurance which will have a link to complete an online reactivation. The email is sent to your NISD email account. It is imperative that you set up your NISD Network account soon after you start working and check your emails on a regular basis.

Where can I get additional information on becoming a full time, certified teacher?

One excellent source of information is the Texas Education Agency’s web page, Alternative certification programs (ACP’s).  In addition, you can contact your local college or university to get additional information on their programs of teacher certification.

Who do I contact for information about my paycheck?

You can contact the payroll office regarding any discrepancies you may discover in your paycheck at (210) 397-8675.  You can also email them at