11 Ways Keep Subs Happy and Make Them Want to Return to Your School

Tip number one: Don’t call them subs.

It can be challenging to find qualified substitute teachers who mesh well with your students and staff. Once you find those rockstar subs, it becomes a mission to keep them in your regular rotation, especially with sub shortages on the rise. After all, it’s downright painful to ensure appropriate staff coverage without combining classes, which is the last resort. 

In a perfect world, substitute teachers would be paid more, teachers would have perfect attendance, and students would treat all subs with the highest level of respect. But let’s face it, more often than not subs walk into a classroom completely unprepared and leave at the end of the day feeling frustrated and unappreciated. 

Here are some helpful, tried-and-true tips from other principals that you can use to make sure your subs feel the love and are eager to teach at your school: 

1. Don’t call them subs.

“Call them guest teachers, not subs.” —Jeffrey See

2. Make them a part of your school family.

“I invite them to staff celebrations, especially when there’s food, so they feel like part of the family. Our most frequent subs also get staff gifts (lanyards, coffee mugs, etc.), and I tell them all the time, ‘We couldn’t survive without you!'” —Carrie Criswell Sanchez

 3. Show them they’re all that and a bag of chips.


“I attach a free sub card to a bag of chips! I got the subs donated!” —Kelly Herzog Kerchner

4. Be prepared with a sub binder. 

“We train them, making it easier to transition into our building. Make sure every staff member has a sub binder with all necessary info, including relevant parts of an IEP, that will make it easier on a sub. Less of the unknown makes life better.” —Jeffrey See

5. Give them a morning announcement shout out.

“We welcome each one by name during the morning announcements.” —Emily Hathaway

6. Wish them a happy holiday.

“I wrote Christmas cards to my regular subs. It has caused many comments and appreciation.” —Messina Lambert

7. Get their feedback.

“I learn their names, greet them personally, and have our secretary give them a brief survey asking them for feedback on their experience working in our building, sharing that we would like to reflect on their comments so that we may continue to grow.” —Jessica Blasic

8. Stop in for classroom visits.

“I visit them and make sure they are okay. I know that sounds basic, but it works.” —Chante Renee Campbell

9. Add them to your teacher gift list.

Treat subs to the same things teachers are given throughout the year – like teacher appreciation gifts, school shirts and gear, coffee gift cards, etc. 

10. Treat them to coffee.

“Give them K-cups to use in the staff Keurig.” —Holly Booth

11. Send a memo to your teachers.

Have the secretary or admin send a morning email to faculty, sharing the subs name and what room they’re in. That way when other teachers see them in the halls, they can call them by name and welcome them. This demonstrates respect in front of students and makes the substitute teachers feel welcome. 

Do you have any special tips for how to make subs return to your school? Share them with us in our Principal Life Facebook GroupPlus, ways principals can reward teachers.