"That's Our Substitute!"

As the public schools put the wraps on the 2021-22 school year, administrators, teachers and students prepare for summer break. My wife, Monique, has been substituting the last nine years since her retirement in 2013. She signaled her intent to keep on reporting to duty as she registered to substitute at her beloved Sherman Elementary School (SES) that first fall semester after retirement. When she was asked by family and friends how she liked retirement, she immediately replied, “I like it just fine now that I am back teaching!” She has continued to repeat this mantra every year since!

Reporting for P.E. Duty!!

Recently, after school on her last day to teach, the Principal greeted her with an encouraging, “Mrs. Keppler, you are finished for this year!” Monique responded, “Great! If I’m still alive and in my right mind, you’ll see me next year!” (She had just turned in her substitute application that day!) He responded, “Of course you will! You are one of our best subs! We couldn’t do without you!” As she came to the car, she was beaming because of the affirmation! Lord willing, she is committed to substitute teaching as long as they’ll have her!

Truth be told, and please understand that I am more than a little biased, she has added value to our elementary school each year she has served as a substitute. This past year, she expanded her service to include: first through fourth grade classes, and occasional stints in the library, art and music departments, and even on the playground and in the gym! She still doesn’t do kindergarten because they are on the floor for much of their instruction, but she has even taught the "kinders" in her library duty!

A good substitute does more than take up or fill a space. Substitutes continue to teach and keep their classes on task. They are team players, mentors who model excellence in instruction, and cooperate with other educators. Subs use technology, expression, a passion for learning, and their good humor to enhance the instruction. They care for the students, affirm good behavior, keep order with structure and discipline, grade papers when appropriate, and communicate with the classroom teacher and administration.

What do they get out of the experience of substituting? They continue to fulfill their calling as teachers. They are blessed by seeing young students achieve results by assimilating information and learning new skills. They get the cute notes, pictures, hugs, and offers to help that communicate the affection these students feel when they know that their substitutes really do like them and care that they have a good experience at school.

We were at the ballpark the other evening to see our elementary-aged grandsons play baseball. One of their teammates goes to SES. As he stood in the batter’s box ready to hit, he looked around to see who might be watching him. He immediately saw Monique nearby and shouted out, “Mrs. Keppler!” Then he said to one of his coaches nearby, “That our substitute!” He was so proud to have his sub teacher there watching him play! Subs get this attention at the grocery store, shopping centers, and yes, even at the ball fields!

There is a need in public and private education for good Christian educators who will continue to impact classroom teaching and be involved in their communities, even during their retirement years! As the Apostle Paul gives general instructions to those new in the faith at Colossae, he says, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness fill your lives… And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:16-17, NLT).

Years ago, I sat under the teaching of a wise professor who advised our class of seminarians to approach our studies each day as if we were sitting before the instruction of the Lord Jesus Christ! In other words, he was saying to us, “Be a student who pleases Christ!” This teacher’s recommendation reminds us that what we do in this life, we are doing by the calling and for the glory of the Lord we love and serve.

The second stanza of Howard Grose’s great old hymn summarizes this thought, “Give of your best to the Master; Give Him first place in your heart; Give Him first place in your service; Consecrate every part. Give, and to you it will be given; God His beloved Son gave; Gratefully seeking to serve Him, Give Him the best that you have.” (Public Domain, published 1902).

Whatever your calling, age, or station in life, let’s follow this directive, “Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus!”

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com 

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