Substitute Teachers: Not Just Pinch-Hitters
There is a common impression among students that substitute teachers are simply a way to avoid work, or that they are not very well-informed. A class that is taught by a substitute is often viewed as a field day. But in reality, substitute teachers are hand-picked, well-trained, knowledgeable, and above all, dedicated to what they do.
Jim Clarke, a large, amiable man with a shock of white hair, is a veteran substitute teacher. For many years, he subbed at 38 different schools in Virginia Beach, teaching every subject and grade over the course of his career. Now, however, he is partially retired, and besides reading and going to museums with his wife, he works solely for Packer. With no other occupation, he is always on call and subs for the middle school often.
“I like the students. I like working with the students,” said Mr. Clarke. “Some of these students are just really talented. Even though they are 12 and 13, many of them are like adults. They are so mature and so interested in so many things.”
Although he spends only about an hour at a time with a class, Mr. Clarke enjoys interacting and forming relationships with every student. Before each class, he makes a point to have a conversation with his students about sports or the current Packer theater production.
“I think students should know we care, and that we’re interested in doing the best job we can do, and that starts with them,” he said.
Mr. Clarke is just one out of a fairly extensive list of substitute teachers that Tory Lacy, Substitute Coordinator and permanent substitute, pulls from when teachers are absent. However, Mr. Lacy and Rita Pavia, another permanent substitute, cover the classes themselves if they can. They also help out in various other ways around the school, including monitoring the Commons, running Study Hall, and assisting in administration.
“I always look forward to Mr. Lacy substituting a class of mine, and I think a lot of people feel the same way. It is fun to hang out and talk with him, even though most of the time the class discussions get way off-topic,” said Emma Eaton (‘19), adding that Mr. Lacy knows how to keep a class under control and always manages complete the tasks at hand.
Although most students know Mr. Lacy from his seemingly constant presence in the Student Center, he also enjoys getting the chance to see students in an academic environment.
“You sort of get the fun part of teaching without having to do the grading and the paperwork and all that,” said Mr. Lacy. “It is nice to be able to just be in there and do your thing with no strings attached outside of the classroom.”
Ms. Pavia, who usually covers classes several times a week, likes the challenge that comes from having to adapt to a different course and different students every time she enters a classroom. She is regularly impressed by Packer students, but believes that substitutes are underestimated by the community.
“Students might not realize it, but every single substitute teacher that stands in front of a class is a highly qualified person with studies, many times with master’s degrees, doctoral degrees. When we stand there, most of the time we stand there with knowledge of what we are doing,” said Ms. Pavia. “Packer really takes the time to screen and choose people that are going to work for the best interests of the school, and the students, as well.”