Characteristics of an Effective Substitute Teacher

When a full-time teacher is unable to be in their own classroom, an effective substitute must step in, often with minimal knowledge of what to expect. When substitute teachers are prepared with a passion for sharing knowledge as well as many other essential characteristics, they are destined for success! Here are our top characteristics for a great substitute teacher:

Passion for Working with Students

Substitute teachers who have a passion for working with students often inspire them. Their love for what they do gets students more involved about what they’re learning and excited about finding their own passion for a career. Showing students they can find a career they love sets a good example and provides them with a more positive environment. In turn, this may develop a spark of interest and engagement for learning the topics you are teaching.

A Love for Learning

Displaying an excitement for studies doesn’t just stop with the substitute. This excitement tends to help students become more driven towards learning. By piquing a student’s interest, effective substitute teachers can assist in getting a student involved in learning outside of the classroom! Their demonstration of enthusiasm for education may encourage children to research topics on their own time. The buzz a substitute creates around their own interest for learning can help ignite a connection between academics and students as well.


While being organized is a great soft skill to have in all professions, familiarizing yourself with the lesson plan ahead of time is especially important in substitute teaching. Having a substitute teacher in the classroom is not only a challenge for the substitute but is also a challenge for the students. A substitute that is prepared and ready to keep the teaching transition confusion to a minimum prevents students from being distracted from their education.

Genuine Care for Students

Establishing a caring relationship with students prepares a supportive and optimistic environment. Substitutes should recognize that students often learn from the teacher’s actions. Teachers should exemplify positive behavior for students to emulate. Listening, being kind, or simply smiling are all small ways to model genuine behavior. Getting to know needs, interests, and talents help students feel as though the educational relationship is a partner learning experience. Incorporating this care into the lesson plans helps to capture the students’ attention as well.

Effective Classroom Manager

There are many roles a substitute teacher must step into, but the role of classroom manager is one of the most important and difficult. Without effective classroom management, sufficient teaching and learning cannot take place.  A substitute teacher must be prepared and have a good sense of time management in order to make the most of every class. This means having a lesson plan in place and having all materials on-hand to reduce “down time.” An effective classroom manager will also be able to clearly outline their academic and behavioral expectations so that students are properly prepared to succeed. This can be difficult to do as an interim teacher but is essential in substitute teaching.

While each of these characteristics are necessary for effective substitute teaching, they are not always second nature. Just as each teacher and teaching style is unique, so is each school and classroom. To prepare accordingly, it is important to provide substitutes with all the tools for success.

The App-garden’s Virtual Substitute Teacher training program is a great way to insure your teachers have gone through the proper orientation for your district.  We can even customize these courses to fit your district because we know that no two school districts are alike.

The Effective Substitute Teacher training course (EST) covers classroom management and how to handle different learning styles.  You can find more information on each of these courses by going to our website.