Choose your aphorism, from “it takes a village” to “many hands make light work.” There are many phrases we use every day to emphasize the importance of a group of people working together — and nowhere is the spirit of teamwork more apparent than in a public school system.
Canyons employs about 6,000 professionals, all of whom play a vital role in providing a high-quality education to students, including the District’s substitute teachers. For this week’s episode of Connect Canyons, to coincide with National Substitute Educators Day, we asked two substitute teachers — Julie Hodges and Camille Ross — what compels them to step up to fill educators’ shoes when needed.
Both are retired teachers who found they missed the classroom so much they signed up to substitute teach.
“It’s been the best thing I’ve done,” says Hodges. “I’ve done a lot of things in my lifetime. The kids today are so tech smart and clever. They’re funny and they can be so kind. I just have renewed hope for this great country of ours, working with these young people.”
Canyons has a pool of about 700 substitutes to fill in for full-time educators when they catch a cold or are scheduled to be away. Sometimes these flexible and resilient champions of children are called upon with just a few hours’ notice. They might substitute teach for one day or several months.
They are always in high demand, but particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when teachers, heeding health orders, had to quarantine or isolate.
Hodges and Ross say they do the job to help students grow. “The most magical thing, I think, is when you’re working with a student and they get something,” Ross says. “You’re teaching them something or reading with them and you see they’re eyes and they’re like ‘I did that,’ ‘I know that,’ ‘I got that.’”
Facing a classroom for the first time can be daunting, but as long as you’re excited to be there, Ross says that goes a long way. “They can tell if you’re excited to be there and you want to be there,” she says. “So, if you show that you are happy to be there and spending your time with them, I think they can feel that. Excitement and a little tote of tricks would be my two tips.”
Hodges says she always tells new substitutes to make eye contact and make a connection. “Greet them at the door, compliment them, say ‘you’re rocking those tennis shoes’, something to connect with them. I tell them I’m there because I want to be, not because I have to be. I tell them, I think if we’re working together, we can have a really productive day,” the 76-year-old says.
Newcomers might be wise to check out different school levels to discover the age group with whom they connect most, Ross says. “I know special ed looks for subs a lot, whatever you’re inclined to do.”
Besides the flexible schedule, what Hodges loves most about being a substitute is it allows her to feel like she’s contributing not just to students but to teachers. “Our teachers are wonderful,” says Hodges, “but they do burn out, they get ill, and they need someone to step in that they can trust. I respect our teachers these days and how hard they work. I am so impressed with the hours they put in and there’s so much expected of them with all the new curriculum and things they’re asked to do. I’m just in awe of what they do. I think teachers are American heroes.”
Canyons is always looking to add talented and energetic substitutes to our team. You can apply here.