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Kelly Education is proud to highlight the work of our talented substitute teachers. Karen Grassell has always loved math. Before becoming a substitute teacher nine years ago, she had a career as a product analyst in the insurance industry. She brings all of that knowledge to the students at the Lakeview School District where she enjoys teaching middle and high school.
The district told us that Karen is very professional and great with the students. She has a good understanding of various subject matter materials and the school policies. She is always well dressed and cheerful in nature.
In this Q&A, Karen shares about her experiences and offers inspiration to new substitute teachers.
Why did you become a substitute educator?
I became interested in substitute teaching when my own children were in junior high school. My son struggled with ADHD his whole life. Over the years, I had become very patient with taking the time to understand different learning styles and seeing the strengths in my son which far outweighed his difficulties.
Although I had a successful career which utilized my applied mathematics degree, I decided to retire to dedicate more time to my children. During that time, I also volunteered at a local autism center and established a passion for working with kids who not only had additional challenges, but also had many amazing strengths. At the time, my son was in 7th grade and said, “Mom, why don’t you become a substitute teacher at our school? It would be great to have a sub who can help us with math when our regular teacher is out.”
I was honestly shocked, yet incredibly flattered, that a 13-year-old boy would want his mom to be in his school every day. It was then that I decided to become a substitute teacher!
What do you enjoy most about being a substitute teacher?
Of course, what I love the most is working with the kids! I really do enjoy them! It is wonderful to help a student get through a tough day or change their outlook for the better.
I also love the flexibility of being able to work when I’m able due to other life or family commitments. As a substitute, every day is completely different, which I find to be interesting and fun!
What advice would you give to new substitute teachers?
Patience is a virtue for a reason! There will be days where you may wonder why you’re doing this (especially if you’ve had a behavioral issue during the day), but the days when you make a student smile, or know that the school staff is grateful for your help on extra busy days, it makes it all worth it.
Remember to see past any learning challenges with a student and let them know that you see THEM, not their challenges. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.
What advice do you have for students?
Work hard every day and never doubt yourself. Also, please respect your teachers. They work so hard every day for you and care more than you know. They deserve only respect from you.
What is the benefit of being a Kelly Education substitute teacher?
The app is really easy to use, so scheduling assignments couldn’t be easier. Getting paid every week is also a nice perk. Onboarding was straightforward and much easier than with other districts.
Do you have a memorable moment from your work in a school?
I have many memorable moments, but one stands out to me.
A few years ago, I was substituting in a 12thgrade class that I had never been in before. A student that I didn’t recognize approached me and asked if I was Mrs. G. and if I used to "sub" in the junior high building a lot. I said yes. Keep in mind that kids look very different in 12th grade than they do in 8th grade, so I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t remember him specifically.
He said, “You might not remember me, but I remember you. I was in 8th grade and down on myself and struggling with grades and to fit in socially. You asked to see me in the hall and said that you could tell I was having a tough day and asked if I wanted to talk. I told you about thinking I wasn’t smart enough to make anything of myself."
The boy said that I encouraged him.
"You told me I was going to do great things and to believe in myself... that 8th grade doesn’t define me, and to never doubt what you can achieve if you work hard. Well, Mrs. G., I’m going to college for engineering on an academic scholarship and I wanted to let you know that you helped me get here.”
Needless to say, I was humbled and grateful for his words. I cried into my sleeve and told him that I was so very proud of his success. This was a very special moment in my life and confirmed to me that substitute teaching is more important than it can appear on the surface.
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