From students to instructors

Departing as graduates, returning as substitutes
This is the image for the news article titled Departing as graduates, returning as substitutesAfter graduating a year ago, two former Re-2 students are back in the district as substitute teachers.

By: Jesse Baalman, Garfield Re-2 Communication Specialist

When Garrett Robinson and Stephen Jones graduated from Rifle High School and Coal Ridge High School, respectively, they didn’t intend to return so soon. But all throughout this eventful year, they’ve lended a hand as substitute teachers at Wamsley Elementary School and Coal Ridge High School. Over the past school year, both Robinson and Jones have had a one-of-a-kind experience within the Re-2 district.

For Jones, who has already completed a year of course work at the University of Puget Sound, substitute teaching is a good gig to ride out the rest of the pandemic with. He intends on returning to the university and achieving his goal of becoming an emergency room physician. On the other hand, Robinson would like to pursue education as a career and specialize in teaching history and government at the secondary level.

Garrett RobinsonBoth staff members previously attended schools in the Re-2 district with Robinson having gone through Wamsley Elementary School, Rifle Middle School and Rifle High School. Jones arrived in the district from Southern California at Riverside Middle School before graduating from Coal Ridge High School. 

According to principal Kathi Senor, having a former student is exciting because they bring historical knowledge as well as some fun stories. “It’s always fun to see how they make their former teachers feel proud and a little old at times,” says Senor.

One adjustment that Robinson and Jones had to get used to was suddenly working alongside people who were formerly their superiors. “I thought it would be a little weird at first just because they were my teachers but it's been a lot of fun,” says Robinson. “Now I think it’s pretty cool that I'm working with teachers who taught me.”

Like Robinson, Jones shares a similar sentiment about his coworkers.“It's hard to think of them as coworkers because to me they'll always be my teachers,” says Jones, who teaches algebra to freshman students. “I don't address anyone by their first name. One teacher I work with is Ms. Fish, so it's always Ms. Fish and never her first name.”

Jones says it was a little strange at first to teach students who are so close in age with him, but principal Jackie Davis had no concerns about hiring him. “I like having the graduates come back to teach in our building,” says Davis. “We did make sure he was not teaching seniors who he might have been in class with.” 

Jones says it can sometimes be hard to direct his students’ attention as they do realize that he’s only a little older than they are. “Despite that, it's just really awesome to be here,” says Jones. “I enjoy the opportunity to work with my students and to take a swing at a career path I didn't consider.”

In terms of the challenges of the job, Jones says one he’s faced is having patience. “I don’t think students realize how much work goes into being a teacher, and when you're actually behind the scenes you realize there's a lot of patience you have to have with kids,” says Jones. “There's a lot of kids you have to give extra attention to, and I think the best part is realizing how much my teachers did for me. In a way, I feel like I’m giving back to people who gave so much to me.”

A challenge that Robinson says he’s faced is classroom management. “It’s about gaining respect from the kids and keeping them engaged, listening and focused,” says Robinson. “That has probably been one of the biggest things that I've noticed.” 

Despite the challenge, Senor says she saw something in Robinson that she looks for in all of her teachers. “I look for positive teachers that are coachable,” says Senor. “If a teacher is coachable and has the heart of a teacher, we can teach them anything about the craft of teaching. Garrett has all of this and he’s good with kids.”Stephen Jones

If it’s not already evident, both administrators are happy with their decision to hire recent graduates. Davis says Jones is dedicated, hard-working, intelligent and an all-around nice person to work with. “He was strong in math and he already knows the curriculum and processes we have in place here at Coal Ridge,” says Davis. 

Senor says that in Robinson she has found a great fit for the position because he’s flexible and willing to jump in, help and try new things at any time. “He also has a very calm demeanor and doesn’t let last minute changes fluster him,” says Senor. “I could tell he would be the calm in some of the chaos that ensues when we are trying to fill positions last minute.”
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