Michael Gordon taught for four years as a middle school teacher in DeKalb County on a provisional teaching certificate. He recently passed edTPA and said he’s waiting for Georgia Professional Standards to complete their work to finish his certification.

He’s looking to get back into the teaching ranks, this time in Gwinnett County. He’s aiming for a full-time position, but if that doesn’t happen he’s content to learn the school system and its AKS as a substitute teacher.

“I substituted right out of college,” Gordon said. “It’s a good way to get your foot in the door. … It’s really good exposure especially when you’re in a class with young scholars.”

Gwinnett County Public Schools hires roughly 2,100 substitutes per year. The school system held a job fair for substitutes at its central office on Monday. Some applicants were full-time students interested in teaching careers, others were just looking for a flexible part-time job.

There are short and long-term subs, but the school district also hires substitute paraprofessionals, clinic workers and custodians. Paraprofessional subs with qualified special education experience are hardest to find.

“Paraprofessionals for special ed classes are a high area of need for us,” GCPS Executive Director of Human Resources Systems Hunter Blackburn said.

On a given Friday, Blackburn said there could be as many as 900 to 1,000 teacher absences in the school system. While positions with additional qualifications are harder to find — like clinical or special education subs — they are not in as high demand as traditional substitute vacancies.

For most applicants, substitute teaching is an introduction to the school system for aspiring full-time teachers. Applicants are required to complete a GCPS training program or be in possession of a valid or expired teaching certificate. They must have a minimum of 60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours from a Professional Standards Commission. While not required, previous successful teaching experience. as a sub otherwise, is preferred.

“Particularly this time of year, if we have folks that applied for a teaching position and didn’t get a teaching position, they’ll apply to be a sub,” Blackburn said. “They’ll work as a sub until the get into the ranks as a teacher.”

Kysheria Smith may not have earned her undergraduate degree in teaching — she has a degree in landscape architecture — but she’s dipping her toes in the education industry because of several family ties to education. Her aunt works at Lilburn Middle School.

“That’s not the road I initially took, but it’s something to think about,” Smith said.

She lives in Duluth, but could see herself subbing at Lilburn-area schools because of her family connection.

“I’m thinking elementary schools. I feel like I would do better with younger kids. They’re more lively.”

Gauging interest in a career in teaching was partially why Tony Bonnett interested in applying to be a GCPS sub. The 2008 Meadowcreek High School graduate said he could see himself relating to older students.

“I’m up for anything, really” he said.

Taylor Denman is a reporter born and raised in Gwinnett County. He came back home to seize the rare opportunity of telling stories about the county in which he grew up.