Windsor Knolls Middle School
Long-term substitute teacher
As a mother and school volunteer, Rebecca Clark would often see a school secretary struggling to fill substitute assignments. Eleven years ago, she decided to help by becoming trained and certified to become a Frederick County Public Schools substitute teacher, mainly serving the Urbana High feeder schools. As a long-term substitute, she’s taught tech ed at Windsor Knolls Middle School for two years.
One of the benefits as a long-term substitute teacher is “you get to test it (teaching) out if you actually want to do this, are good at it and can handle the extra pressures of making the lesson plans, communicating with parents and following the curriculum,” she says. “I love being a long-term sub.”
Clark is in the process of becoming a full-time teacher. “I knew how to code a bit from the ’90s, and I just taught myself how to code so I could know what I am doing and communicate with the kids,” she says. “I started to create lessons in addition to what I was given and the resources that I had. I try to make things as fun as possible.”
Clark was named FCPS’s Substitute Teacher of the Year during the 2020-2021 school year for her service at Windsor Knolls.
Challenges abound for substitutes. Several times, Clark has been in the position where her lesson plan was written on a Post-it. “In general, you have to immediately portray confidence and knowledge,” she says.
Since in-person learning has resumed, Clark has noticed students struggling with showing kindness and empathy toward others. She recalled once buying a large number of stickers for the students to use throughout the year, and the supply didn’t even last to her fifth class. “They have not thought about the kid in the next period, and I have not seen that on such a grand scale ever before,” she says.
Clark likes being useful, which is why she got into subbing and has remained a substitute teacher. “If you want to feel useful or needed, be a substitute teacher,” she says. “You feel needed, and when you are good as a substitute, you are not just a space filler. You are helping the kids, interacting and building on the lesson given to you. You are helping the lightbulb stay on. Right now, these kids need every motivation to keep going.”