CABOT, Ark. — The gap between people who are prepared to teach in Arkansas schools and the ones who are teaching is getting bigger every year.

That’s according to data released by the Arkansas Department of Education.       

Data shows a 48% gap between the number of educators who were prepared to teach and the ones who were hired.

One central Arkansas school district has come up with a creative way to get more substitutes on board, in hopes they’ll become teachers and stay in the classroom for years to come.

A long-term substitute for the Cabot School District, Diana Tran, will teach another teacher’s kindergarten class for the rest of the school year. 

“I’ve always loved teaching and I’ve always loved kids,” Tran said. “And I thought subbing was the perfect thing to get me started.”

Diana Tran teaches class at Cabot School District

Two months into the new gig, Tran now wants to get certified to have her own classroom one day.

“Their smile and their hugs really make it worth it,” she said. “The kids are my motivation.”

And the bonuses don’t hurt, either.

“And so, for every full week that each sub works, they get a $50 bonus,” said Leila Seigrist, the Director of Human Resources for the Cabot School District.

Every time a sub does work a full week, their name goes into a drawing.

“For a $500 prize at the end of each nine weeks,” Seigrist said.

“I feel like my hard work is being shown now and I feel like people are recognizing that,” Tran said.

Brand new subs who work ten days will get their background check fee reimbursed. Those background checks typically cost about $50.

Cabot Schools say they need about 20 more subs to be able to give teachers some more planning time.

“But we don’t have that extra cushion right now,” Seigrist said.

They also want teachers to have peace of mind when taking a day off.

The district says they hope this plan will encourage would-be teachers like Tran to get their foot in the door and stay for a while.

“If you’re not sure, you can kind of dabble and see if you like it,” Tran said.

The Cabot School District’s new substitute teacher incentive program starts in January. For more information, click here.