Those efforts are knocked sideways when new strains like Omicron affect the number of teachers on leave and bring many districts to the brink of closure. Some North Texas districts, big and small, have announced temporary closures due to teacher and substitute teacher shortages.
Amidst challenging circumstances, unexpected heroes are found. Substitute teachers have a unique opportunity to don their capes and help students remain excited and engaged in the classroom. Substitute teachers like Ms. Veneshia Johnson and Mr. Kolten Pierce treat their stand-in roles like a calling.
Life School Lancaster Elementary Principal Deb Garton explains, “Quality subs don’t just skim the sub plans and let students work alone without providing any help. They actively engage, check student work, and encourage their efforts.”
Stepping into Ms. Johnson’s classroom, you get a sense that she is building a model around classroom engagement. The kids are asking questions, curious, and clearly responding. In Garton’s words, a quality substitute, exemplified by Ms. Johnson, “takes on the role as if he or she is the classroom teacher.”
Garton continues, “Ms. Veneshia Johnson comes in every day smiling and ready to make a difference. She is warm and welcoming. The students and staff love her warmth and joyful spirit.”
It is not just teaching in the classroom that makes substitute teachers valued members of the campus culture. They also support other teachers and staff or help put new substitute teachers at ease.
Life School Chief Academic Officer Troy Mooney recently volunteered to sub on campus and was greeted by an enthusiastic Mr. Pierce, who took him under his wing. “Kolton didn’t know that I worked at Life School. He took the time to tell me how to organize the class and work as a sub. He made sure I was ready for my own sub assignment. He checked Canvas and wrote the assignments on the board for me. He also had great things to say about the campus and the campus leadership.”
What motivates such service-minded substitute teachers?
According to Ms. Johnson, “I enjoy being a substitute teacher because I get to influence the minds of future leaders, innovators, and wonderful thinkers.”
She explains that transmitting knowledge to young learners and leaving an impact on students brings her joy. “Teaching is a priceless gift to me because it allows [me] to make a difference in the world and help build a better tomorrow.”
For individuals who feel called to serve, districts throughout the nation are actively hiring. Ms. Johnson has her thoughts on that too. “Subbing is an excellent way to expand your skills and build relationships with students. As a substitute teacher, you learn a lot about yourself – what kinds of classroom activities and subject matter make you the most excited, how you respond to challenging students or classrooms, and how much fun you can have making a huge difference. This, maybe, is the best reason of all to become a substitute teacher.”
Life School continues to add to its roster of quality substitute teachers who want to serve students while also maintaining flexibility in their work schedule. More information is available at lifeschool.net/substitutes.
Life School is a tuition-free, public charter school with campuses in Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Mountain Creek, Red Oak, Oak Cliff and Waxahachie, TX. Life School develops leaders with life skills through strong academics, character training, and partnerships with parents and the community. Its mission is accomplished in part through the financial support of donors who provide scholarships and embrace making students ready to learn, ready to lead and ready for life.