Class is in session for prospective substitute teachers in Knox County.
"I'm excited this year to be able to get into the school system and see what it's about," said Whitney Crisp.
She has two elementary school students and is finishing up her teaching degree.
"I definitely think it will get me a step ahead," Crisp said after completing a substitute training session Wednesday.
The county requires substitute teacher to complete a training session and pass a test to be eligible to teach. Until now, it has only been available online. Starting this week, school officials are holding weekly training sessions and waiving the $39.95 assessment fee.
"A lot of people want a face-to-face interaction and we didn't want that to create a barrier in terms of people being able to come in our school system and be a substitute for us," said Nakia Towns, Director of Human Capital Strategy.
The training and test are new requirements implemented by the school system in 2010.
"Prior to that, you just needed to be 18, have a GED and apply," Towns said.
Initially critics worried the added layer would lead to less interest in subbing. The district reports it has led an increase in reliability.
"The substitutes that we have, because they are higher quality and more invested, those individuals are substituting more days," Towns said.
The goal is to make those days count.
"Training today taught us how to be organized, to know prepare for the students before they actually enter the classroom," said Mary Bates, a retired Y-12 plant worker now raising her two grandchildren.
"We were taught about procedures with the school and how to handle the kids in the classroom as well as outside the classroom," Crisp added.
District officials hope that leads to better results where they matter most.
"They're all the more capable to meet our objective of having an effective educator in the classroom every day, even when the teacher of record gets sick," Towns said.
The weekly training sessions run through August 11. To register, contact Knox County Schools' Human Resources at 954-1929 or visit www.hr.knoxschools.org.