Substitutes make a difference for classroom teachers.
For Debbie Beene, a former fifth-grade teacher, substituting was a great way to return to the classroom when her young son went to school.
"Mike's 29 now," Beene said. "I never made it back full time."
But in the past 24 years or so, Beene has worked consistently as a substitute in Lawrence public school classrooms.
"Substituting is just a great part-time job," said Beene. "What's so great about subbing is you can still have contact with the kids but I don't have the planning, the meetings, the grading and all that goes along with it."
Beene and other public school substitute teachers are being honored by the Lawrence Education Assn., which has designated today as Substitutes Day. The recognition is part of Lawrence's celebration of American Education Week-National Children's Book Week.
"The reason that we decided to make a point of honoring them this year in a more obvious way is that we realize that substitutes are a very, very important part of the school community and we really need them," said Lois Orth-Lopes, president of the Lawrence Education Assn.
"So often, they get forgotten because they're not on anybody's regular staff roll. They certainly make a difference in buildings. It's important that we have a good working relationship with them."
Some substitute teachers favor classes at a junior high or high school.
"I prefer elementary," said Beene, 56. "And I prefer the little ones, as I get older. They still love school and they're inquisitive. They love their teacher."
Beene has been a regular substitute for so long that some teachers request her for their classrooms.
"I have friends who teach in the system, and they call," she said. "If I don't have anything else going, I'll usually do their class. When they call, they'll tell me `I have a really good class,' or `You probably won't want to do this.'''
Beene works hard to follow classroom teachers' instructions carefully.
"I think that helps," she said. "I just say this is what we have to do, and I try to keep them really busy."
In general, her substituting experiences have been enjoyable. Occasionally, sixth-graders will pull stunts, such as switching chairs so Beene ends up calling them by someone else's name.
"Just typical stuff like that," she said. "I do feel really responsible for these kids. The little ones, I'm always counting heads."
-- Caroline Trowbridge's phone message number is 832-7148. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.