Unsung Heroes

Garfield Teachers on their Substitute Pasts

What would you do if you walked into a classroom full of 20 to 30 high schoolers who you didn’t know and who certainly didn’t know you? Run? Scream? Cry? This daunting job is done nearly every day by hundreds of substitutes across the district. These men and women work tirelessly to make sure that your classes don’t self destruct.

In order to sub for classes, a teacher must have a current teaching certificate – the same qualification for full time teachers. After getting his certification, Graham Ramsey, a science teacher here at Garfield, began working as a substitute in different schools.

“Subbing allowed me to get a feel for several schools in Seattle and Renton during the window of time that I was applying for full time teaching jobs” said Ramsey.

Because of the high demand for substitute teachers, many subs just have to improvise when teaching a subject they are not familiar with. Imagine having to walk into a class where you must be an authority for a subject you know nothing about.

“As a sub, you have to be ready for anything,” said Garfield history teacher Daniel Young. “I remember one day teaching AP Calculus, that was fun. It had been awhile since I’d encountered integrals and calculated the volume of a space created by a rotating curve… or something like that.”

Despite how intimidating a task this seems, some subs enjoy a challenge.

“It was actually a nice part of the job – you got an appreciation for what other teachers are doing and dealing with day-to-day,” said Young.

Young also recalls getting ideas for projects and assignments from working in other teacher’s classrooms.

Although there are positives to being a sub, you do encounter many surprising obstacles that must be dealt with in a moment’s notice.

“The incredible variety of situations that I encountered was ridiculous,” said Ramsey. “ No sub plans, elaborate plans for the most ambitious and sophisticated lesson of all time, no contacts in the building, no classroom keys, the list goes on.”

Despite how difficult it might be, subbing can be a fulfilling job.

Mr. Young says, “I enjoyed coming home at a normal time every day, getting to cook a nice dinner for my wife. She’d ask ‘So what did you teach today?’ and I’d say, ‘AP Bio,’ and she’d be like, ‘But you don’t know anything about Bio,’ and I could say, ‘I do now.’”