Mrs. Todd and the Life of a Substitute Teacher

By Hadi Rahim and Jessica Hudnut

Teacher Appreciation Week, which lasted from Monday, May 2nd to Friday, May 6th, provided an opportunity for the students of Apex High School to thank their teachers for everything they do. In addition to the teachers who students see every day, there is another group that deserves to be recognized for their efforts in the school community.

Substitute teachers have the essential role of filling in for teachers who aren’t able to make it to class. Each day, they get to know new sets of students and work to make sure they don’t fall behind while their teachers are away.

Mrs.Todd, who has been working as a substitute teacher at Apex High School for five years, is known for her efforts to foster a positive classroom experience for her students. From playing trivia games to letting students vote on background music, Mrs. Todd tries her hardest to be present for the students and make a difference where she can.

As a building sub, Mrs. Todd is at Apex High School every day. On a typical day, she finds out which classes need to be covered by checking Frontline Education, a website used by teachers and subs to manage absences and ensure each class is covered. She usually covers four classes each day, and when there are no classes to cover she works on other projects for the school. 

Building subs are also distinct from regular substitute teachers in the way they are paid. Building subs are paid a fixed amount for each whole or half day that they work, in addition to receiving benefits such as healthcare and vacation days. Other substitute teachers, however, operate on a more freelance basis, taking on whichever jobs are available at a variety of schools. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, substitute teachers have become more crucial than ever. Non-certified substitute teachers received a pay raise in January from $104 a day to $115 a day. Certified subs receive $130 a day.

Throughout her life, Mrs. Todd has always found herself being drawn to teaching. She is passionate about what she does, and works hard to build relationships with the students she meets. She tries to engage the students by allowing them to vote on which decade’s music they want to listen to because, as she puts it, “music reaches everybody.”  

The idea for trivia questions came from her daughter, who told her about a substitute teacher at her middle school who told ghost stories. This inspired Ms. Todd to do something similar. If time permits, she reads trivia questions to the class and students have to shout out their name in order to be able to answer. The first student to answer the question right is rewarded with candy. Mrs. Todd asks the same questions for every class she teaches. “I think people enjoy it. Some people complain, like, ‘these are the same questions.’ I’m like, ‘okay, but half the class still doesn’t know the answer so I’ll keep doing it [until] they do.’”

Outside the classroom, she hopes students feel like they can talk to her if they need help. She also makes sure to carry snacks with her each day for students who may be food-insecure.

These are just a few of the many ways Mrs. Todd and other substitute teachers work to improve the lives of students in the Apex High community. As the end of the school year draws nearer, don’t forget to thank a substitute teacher for all their hard work towards making this a great school year.

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