Back to school: when the student becomes the teacher

Alumni return to substitute teach

Head+of+the+class+%5C%5C+Class+of+2019+graduate+Emily+Wygant+is+among+many+alumni+who+returned+to+their+former+stomping+grounds+to+substitute+teach.+Due+to+quarantines%2C+the+need+for+substitute+teachers+is+on+the+rise.+%E2%80%9CI+wasn%E2%80%99t+nervous+to+sub+at+the+elementary+school+level%2C+because+to+them%2C+I+look+like+an+adult%2C%E2%80%9D+Wygant+said.+%E2%80%9Cbut+for+the+high+school+level%2C+I+get+a+little+bit+nervous+because+I+really+am+only+a+couple+of+years+older+than+the+students+and+I+blend+in+with+them.%E2%80%9D

photo credit: courtesy photo

Head of the class \\ Class of 2019 graduate Emily Wygant is among many alumni who returned to their former stomping grounds to substitute teach. Due to quarantines, the need for substitute teachers is on the rise. “I wasn’t nervous to sub at the elementary school level, because to them, I look like an adult,” Wygant said. “but for the high school level, I get a little bit nervous because I really am only a couple of years older than the students and I blend in with them.”

writer: Shelby Perry, Staff Reporter

When most people graduate from their high school, they head off to college, get a job, start their lives, and likely never return again. However, many senior alumni from the class of 2019 and 2020 are taking quite the opposite approach, by returning as WISD substitutes. 

Jaxson Hill, a member of the class of 2019 and current mechanical engineering and astrophysics student at Harvard University, found out about the opportunity to substitute teach through his mom, Mrs. Jill Hill,  the Education and Training teacher.

“She said the district had a shortage of substitutes and was looking to hire college students to help fill in the gaps,” Jaxson said. “I knew I was going to be home on break for about a month with no school work to do, and this sounded like the perfect opportunity to help out where I was needed and also make some money while I was home. My sister, Ryah Hill, and both my parents, Joe and Jill Hill, are at East, so it only made sense that I join my family there.”

To be honest, it still felt like I should have been with the students. After all, most of them are taller than me anyway. I was definitely mistaken for a student a few times too.”

— Jaxson Hill, alum and substitute teacher

Others found this as an opportunity to not only work and make a few extra bucks, but to gain future career experience. After graduating last year, class of 2020 graduate and current biology student at Texas Christian University, Katelynn Herod, returned just a few months later as a substitute.

“I want to be a teacher and when I found out I had the opportunity to get involved in WISD I had to do it,” Herod said. “I loved coming back. It was nice to see some familiar faces.”

The alumni worked as substitutes not only at this school, but also at other schools in the district. Graduate of the class of 2019 and current early childhood education student at The University of North Texas, Emily Wygant, subbed at Watkins Elementary and Wylie East, both where she previously attended as a student.

“I was actually the first graduating class to come from Watkins, so it was really crazy to be back in the place that I went to elementary school, but as a teacher this time.” Wygant said. “I also subbed for my old yearbook adviser, Casi Thedford, at Wylie East. In high school I was a yearbook editor, so I loved getting to come back to the place where I spent many hours working and hanging out with my former yearbook editors and friends.”

For Jaxson in particular, it felt strange to see his high school from an entirely new perspective. 

“It was great to see some former teachers and current students, but also really strange knowing I was coming back as an employee,” Jaxson said. “To be honest, it still felt like I should have been with the students. After all, most of them are taller than me anyway. I was definitely mistaken for a student a few times too.”

A few alumni worried that the students would have a hard time respecting them as a teacher instead of just a fellow student.

“I wasn’t nervous to sub at the elementary school level, because to them, I look like an adult and I know that they will respect me as their own teacher,” Wygant said, “but for the high school level, I get a little bit nervous because I really am only a couple of years older than the students and I blend in with them.”

While these graduates are coming back under circumstances that are certainly unique, they view it as a nostalgic and proud moment to come back and be welcomed into a place that taught them so many valuable lessons that they have been able to carry into adulthood.

“During my time at East, I learned, or rather I grew to further appreciate, how valuable connecting with others is,” Jaxson said. “Whether it is just with your friends, or even with your teachers, having someone in your corner when you need them for anything, whether that’s advice, to have fun, or just general support can make the world of a difference.”