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Substitutes over supervisors, every time

Q & A

November 17, 2020 Dennis Theobald ATA Executive Secretary


Question: Are classroom supervisors the same as substitute teachers?

Answer: No. Classroom supervisors are not teachers.

Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19 and the shut down and restart of schools, the Alberta Teachers’ Association has identified the shortage of substitute teachers and necessary restrictions on their deployment as a major issue affecting the quality of education and the health and safety of teachers. This issue has been the topic of written submissions and numerous representations by ATA president Jason Schilling and staff; however, the provision of adequate coverage for teachers absent from their usual work remains a significant challenge.

As a result, there has been an increase in the use of classroom supervisors by various school divisions across the province since schools restarted operation in September. This increase is due to the insufficient number of available substitute teachers and is most notable in rural areas.

A teacher holds a teaching certificate issued by the minister of education after having completed a recognized education program. Under the Education Act, a teacher has the responsibility to plan, teach and assess student growth, among other duties, and these responsibilities cannot be delegated to a non-certificated individual.

Classroom supervisors may have a degree or certificate of some kind, but the majority, if not all, do not have teaching credentials in the province of Alberta. This is why they are not substitute teachers — they are classroom supervisors. They are often paid less than a substitute teacher.

These individuals cannot and must not perform any duties that a teacher would normally perform. The classroom supervisors can hand out material, put the work to be done on the whiteboard and monitor student behaviour while in the room. They cannot teach, assess or evaluate student progress at any time. If there is a classroom management issue, they are to call a school leader in the office for assistance.

Finally, a classroom supervisor should only be called in when no certificated substitutes are available. The school division must demonstrate that it has called all the substitute teachers on its roster and that no one was available. This is for that day only. If the same teacher is absent the following day, then the process needs to be repeated — every substitute teacher is called first and the classroom supervisor is called in only if there are no substitutes available.

Teachers who believe that classroom supervisors are being called before a certificated substitute are encouraged to contact their local Teacher Welfare Committee so this can be investigated. The Association’s position on this is clear: we want schools to stay open. Students should be in school. They should be receiving instruction from a certificated teacher at all times. In the event that a substitute teacher is not available, then a classroom supervisor can be called in. Ensuring vacancies are appropriately filled will assist in easing some of the concerns of teachers and school leaders providing internal coverage, which adds to their workload.

For any questions or concerns on this topic, please visit the ATA website or contact Teacher Employment Services at 1-800-232-7208. My thanks to my colleagues Robert Mazzotta, co-ordinator of Teacher Employment Services, and Sean Brown, associate co-ordinator of Collective Bargaining, for their substantial assistance in drafting this answer in response to a very timely question. ❚

Questions for consideration in this ­column are welcome. Please address them to Dennis Theobald at Barnett House (


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