Swing Education: Connecting Substitute Teachers With Schools In Need

By Amit Chowdhry • Sep 28, 2023

Swing Education is a company that connects high-quality substitute teachers with schools in need. The company recruits, screens, and supports a large group of substitute teachers, and they make it easy for schools to find the right sub at the right time. Pulse 2.0 interviewed Swing Education co-CEO and co-founder Mike Teng to learn more.

Mike Teng’s Background

Teng started his career as a software engineer, but after listening to a story on “This American Life” about the Harlem Children’s Zone, a program in NYC helping children and adults, he decided to change careers. Teng was inspired by Geoffrey Canada and his work with Harlem Children’s Zone. Teng said:

“That moment of inspiration is how I started working in education. My first job was as tech director for Rocketship Education. I spent a year talking with the folks at Rocketship, trying to persuade them to hire me because I knew I wanted to be in a place where my work contributed to something meaningful. They finally relented and hired me and I worked there for 5 years. It was at Rocketship that I started to see how difficult it was for schools to manage teacher absences. That is where the idea for Swing to came together.”

Formation Of Swing Education

How did the idea for Swing come together? Teng shared:

“What I began to really understand about teachers is that they planned their lives and vacations and doctor appointments around when their favorite substitute teachers were available. They planned everything around that, which was both rewarding to understand that subs were so valued but also a little alarming to realize that so much hinged on that teacher staying well. It seemed there was a better way to manage this process.

“When I first got the idea for Swing, I called two of my friends from high school, people who I knew had talent and drive, who I enjoyed being with. I also knew they wanted to do meaningful work. All of us had gone to different universities and were pursuing other careers but it just felt right to bring us all together in this effort. It’s been incredibly rewarding getting to work on such an important problem in an absolutely critical industry with such talented and great friends.”

Favorite Memory

What has been Teng’s favorite memory working for Swing so far? Teng reflected:

“Early on in Swing’s life, we had a teacher candidate in San Jose who had just moved from Georgia. She had a teaching credential for Georgia, but couldn’t afford the cost to translate it to CA. We were sending her a reminder to register with us when she said that she really wanted to, but just couldn’t afford it yet. At that point, we stepped in and helped her with the cost so that she could start teaching again in California. Sometime later, she took a full-time teaching position at one of the schools she had been subbing with through Swing. She had become so important to that school that they wanted to hire her full-time.”

“That experience also really helped inspire us to start helping many more candidates with the basic costs of becoming a teacher and getting into the classroom.”

“Her journey epitomizes what we are trying to do from both sides. For the substitute teacher, we want to make it easier to get started and then right into the schools. For the schools, we want to connect the right people into the job with as little pain as possible for the school.”

Challenges Faced

What are some of the challenges Teng faced in building the company? Teng acknowledged:

“If you think of running a school from the perspective of a CEO, education is a really tough industry to be in. It is like running a company, except that the entire world, including politicians, gets to have their say about whether or not your business is running well. Then add to that the absolutely essential need to teach young people what they need to know to step out into their world to either start working or pursue higher education.”

“Despite that – and in some ways because of that – what I love the most about working in education is how much people really care about helping students and their communities. Of course, people can disagree on how it should be done, but at the end of the day, we all have the same goals of educating kids and providing those kids with as many opportunities as they can have. Everything we do at Swing Education is to help teachers, administrators, and support staff do their work so that students learn and thrive.”

Core Products

What are Swing Education’s core products and features? Teng explained:

“Swing Education is a comprehensive technology platform that makes it easy for substitute teachers to find sub assignments and for schools to request and place subs. For the substitutes themselves, we offer a mobile application that gives them full control over their schedule and earning potential. We also help them get signed up and paid more quickly. For the schools, our platform eases the process of connecting with subs. The request and notification process is easier and reaches a broader pool of qualified, classroom-ready substitute teachers.”

Evolution Of Swing Education’s Technology

How has Swing Education’s technology evolved since launching?

“The Swing platform has gotten much smarter over time. We give substitutes more information about the opportunities that suit their needs, information like location, pay rate, subject, and teaching assignment. We are also better at anticipating school needs.”

“Overall, we have created a better experience for both sides and we are better at matching schools and the best substitutes.”

“We are also working on improved supports for substitutes so that they have tools in their toolbelt. When they get to class, our goal is that they are comfortable and fully ready to tackle whatever the day brings.”

Significant Milestones

What have been some of Swing’s most significant milestones? Teng cited:

“Some of Swing Education’s most significant milestones include our recent $38 million Series C funding round and filling more than one million classroom instructional hours with substitutes in the 2022-2023 school year.”

Customer Success Stories

Upon asking Teng about customer success stories, he replied:

“Here are links to a few of our favorites:

Cajon Valley Union School District

Pioneer Preparatory School

Green Dot Public Schools California

Differentiation From The Competition

What differentiates Swing from its competition? Teng affirmed:

“I don’t consider any company our direct competitor because Swing is fundamentally different in how we approach the problem. We see this as a marketplace where schools have a need and they see a lot of people who can fill that need. This allows for more transparency. It also allows high-quality workers to come to the surface who have the freedom to choose the place and dates of their choice. Marketplaces are really good at creating high-quality interactions and at driving innovation.”

“Additionally, Swing is empathetic to what substitute teachers need and how the process can be easier for them. We provide classroom readiness materials. We help them with the costs of getting into the classroom. For the schools, we solve pain points in fill rates and Swing is very easy to use. We’ve proven that we are empathetic to their challenges, too.”

Future Company Goals

What are some of Swing’s future company goals? Teng concluded:

“We are keenly focused on making this process easier and better for everyone but we know that this is a continuous process. Today, Swing already makes the process easier and better for both schools and subs, but we want to keep innovating and improving.”

“One of those ways is to help substitute teachers feel better prepared when entering the classroom. We also want to help them think of this as a pathway to full-time teaching. In that way we are not only helping individuals but we are helping schools and society at large. The teacher shortage is a very real problem that will take a multifaceted approach to solving. We think of our work as one way to help address that larger societal issue.”

“We have many measures of success but one of those is how many subs return to Swing time and time again. If they are returning — and I’m here to tell you that they are — then we know we are making a significant difference.”