Subs play important role in classrooms

Published 9:55 am Friday, July 31, 2015

Long gone are the days when substitute teachers were only glorified babysitters. Today, they are more likely to be retired teachers who simply enjoy being around students in the classroom.

Two Brookhaven School District substitute teachers said returning as a sub has allowed them to stay connected to the students and faculty they missed after retiring from full-time teaching.

Ann Willis retired from a 28-year teaching career in May of 2000 and that August was back in the school as a substitute teacher. She was first called in to help out by the principal of Lipsey Middle School who was a friend. After that she went to Alexander at the request of friends there. Fifteen years later subbing provides Willis with a way to see all the friends she’s made throughout the school system.

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“I just enjoy it,” Willis said. “Being around the children; being around the faculty and staff.”

As a teacher, Willis taught health and physical education. Now, she likes to sub for science classes, which cater to her education in biology.

Willis said as a substitute she gets to be in classrooms all over the district but her favorite age group  is the 10th through 12th grade students.

“They talk to me,” Willis said. She said she likes being able to discuss topics with them and has been told that she has been a lifeline for some of them.

Willis’s passion for education runs in the family. Her son is the assistant principal at Brookhaven Elementary School and her daughter teaches first grade at Mamie Martin.

She said that coming back as a substitute with a history as a teacher became an advantage for her because she knows the parents and grandparents of many of the students.

Earl Westfall experiences a similar feeling with some of the students in his substitute classes.

“I get to meet a lot of the kids whose parents I’ve taught and it makes me proud of the parents to see what a good job they’re doing,” Westfall said.

The past 2014-2015 school year was Westfall’s first year as a substitute teacher; he retired from 21 years of teaching JROTC in the Brookhaven School District. He said when he retired he was not thinking of returning as a substitute but realized he really missed his follow co-workers and teachers.

“The biggest difference was when I had my own program and my own class I didn’t see a lot of stuff going on in other places,” Westfall said. “[Substituting] gave me an appreciation for all the other stuff going on.”

Westfall only subs at the high school level and enjoys filling in for the JROTC instructors when they are gone.

“I like the variety of doing something different every day,” Westfall said. “I still have good health, I’ve been working since I was 16 and this was the most enjoyable thing I could find to do.”

BSD substitute teacher training is Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Brookhaven High School Cafeteria for all individuals who already applied and meet all qualifications.

Trainees must be 21 years of age and have completed two years of study at an institution of higher learning (48 hours) or have an associate’s degree or higher.

They also must have obtained a passing score on the Mississippi ACT WorkKeys Assessment test in Reading for Information, Applied Mathematics, and Writing or Business Writing.

All substitute teachers must pass a background check ($32 fee to be paid at time of fingerprinting).

Willis said for first time subs coming in or those interested in becoming a substitute teacher, to make sure they love children and still have their patience.

“Be ready to go,” Willis said about being called in for a substituting assignment. “Be available.”

Westfall said that “as long as they still want me and as long as my health is good” he will continue subbing for classes in the district.