With a sluggish economy and a rising unemployment rate, more and more people are turning to substitute teaching as a way to earn extra money.

Officials with the Stephenville Independent School District said the number of applicants looking to substitute is up.

“We already have 95 active substitutes working in the district and we just started (the school year),” said Deborah Wall, administrative assistant for the SISD human resource department. “I’ve already had four trainings to accommodate the applicants.”

All substitute teachers must complete a training course to become eligible to work. They must also be fingerprinted and pass a criminal background check.

Wall said the district does not pay for fingerprinting, which costs a little more than $52 and requires a trip to Fort Worth, an added expense those looking to enter the classroom are not balking at.

By the end of the 2008-09 school year, Wall said the district had about 140 on the substitute roster. What’s interesting about this year, she said, is the number of people with degrees looking for work.

“We are seeing a lot of people with degrees who are in their 40s and 50s going back to work,” Wall said. “It’s astonishing.”

Substitute teachers with a bachelor’s degree are paid $70 per day, while non-degreed substitutes earn $60.

As layoffs continue to affect more people in the area, Wall said a growing number of men are giving substitute teaching a try.

“We are definitely seeing more male applicants than we have in the past,” Wall said.

Stephenville resident Jackie Melvin has been a substitute teacher for more than nine years. Melvin, who has a bachelor’s degree and is certified to teach in four areas, said substituting allows her to work while her kids are at school and gives her a little extra money.

Melvin said she likes to work about two to three days per week, or a minimum of 10 days a month, but calls this year have been slower to come than in the past. Melvin chalks it up to competition, saying a larger number of substitutes are competing for work.

“It’s hard to work as much as I want,” Melvin said. “Not a lot of teachers are gone right now. It usually picks up in the spring.”

For those looking to spend more time in the classroom, however, Melvin said substitute teachers can find enough work to keep them busy if they are willing to teach in other districts.