Life of a Long-Term Substitute Teacher: Mr. Downs

Mr. Downs smiling on his last day as long term substitute for GVs Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, March 29 2024 in the band room
Mr. Downs smiling on his last day as long term substitute for GV’s Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, March 29 2024 in the band room
Emily Doroteo

Amidst the ongoing crisis of teacher shortage, substitutes have had to step in for months on end. Yet, are they finding their time as a long-term substitute satisfying?
Among these substitutes, a notable one stands out: Kent Tomo Downs, a long-term substitute for the Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, and Jazz Band for the beginning of 2024. His musical background expands to being involved in music programs in high school and majoring in music in college.

The era of COVID-19 has welcomed a shortage of teachers across the nation. Across the nation, 20% of teachers are “very satisfied” with their jobs, with one in three teachers saying they are likely to quit in the next few years.

The Teacher Shortage
Sue Alterman, the office manager, recognizes the major decline is due to, “their low salaries.” She claims, “We have a decline in SPED and bilingual and ELA teachers and we’re always looking for long-term subs who are specializing in SPED or teachers that are bilingual.”

She expands upon teacher’s low salaries and believes, “Teachers are always fighting for salaries and it’s understandable, maybe with the aftermath of COVID,” she also accounts for, “A lot students of students are being homeschooled or are seeking other private schools so that might provide shortage for other teachers.”

She explains the substitute system where, “If you take a long-term assignment that’s more than 21 days it pays $300 a day and that’s a huge incentive for subs to come on board and take a long term assignment. But you have to find the right fit, the three subjects would be SPED KIDS, ELA, and math. It’s hard to find.”

The Demand for Subs
Not all teaching positions will be filled by a teacher, in some cases a long-term substitute will step in. The Journalist’s Resource conducted a survey revealing that more than 70% of the school administrators, and school board members, predicted the demand for substitute teachers will increase in the next several years.

With the exponential increase in demand for substitutes, Alterman describes them to be like, “fish out of water they don’t know our school as well you find the right sub the right fit they gonna blend in well.” But she reassures, “our staff in Golden Valley is very willing to help mentor substitute teachers.”

Alterman specifies “If you find a teacher that would take on a long- term assignment, you get that consistency. And not only the students’ needs but the staff as well. They become part of the staff as well.” She brings up a time when, “we [office managers] were looking for a band director we found two subs that worked well together and they were able to stay there for the long haul, I think that’s rare.”

She notes, “A lot of subs that want to become permanent teachers, they might not be able to take on a long term assignment.” However, she takes into account that, “maybe their studies or something will take them away from it.”

Getting the Job
Downs states, “I got into substitute teaching, in 2022 kinda as a job there was a posting online I applied I got in. I didn’t start long-term subbing until the first go around with you guys.”

He explains, ““I was here as a two-week job just kinda wherever they needed me, and then on day two Mr. Alterman, (the previous long-term substitute for the band said,) ‘Hey, the computer says you have music stuff, can you go do music?’” Thus, started the sudden transition to teaching a marching, and jazz band.

The Biggest Challenge
Being a teacher takes an immense amount of effort, time, and dedication; it’s no easy feat. The challenges are more than superficial. It’s essentially picking up the work of the educator and attempting to continue to educate and support students.

Mr. Downs highlights, “the amount of time that the band director role takes.” For context the first class, wind ensemble starts at 7:30. He mentions the challenge of, “Getting up in the morning and coming.” He further elaborates that, “outside of rehearsal there’s always silly stuff to deal with all of those little things, it’s a lot of headache there.”

However, past the headache, he says, “to step in as a sub is a lot but it is rewarding,” and concludes with, “I would say the biggest challenge is keeping myself going through it and maintaining stability.”

Growing in the Role
He points out, “There are a number of facets to this job that are like really later skills I’ve developed through my training and personal background in band and family background in band.”

He realizes that, “There’s an element, I’ve always taught in different roles. It almost seems it has been leading towards band directing for quite some time.” With this, he noticed, “This was sorta the final before pushing into that.” He says, “The biggest takeaway from the job is that I would actually be doing this.”

The Future of GV Band
When asked where do you see the band program in the future he said, “I think you guys are going to do really well.” He adds, “Mr. Nazario is amazing. He’s a lot easier to step into this role this year than it was last year and he’s getting you guys set up for success in a lot of ways.”

He believes, “Once he’s back on the chair, you guys will keep moving forward. The program is gonna keep getting better and sounding better.”

A Word of Advice
His parting words to his students are, “Keep going, keep practicing ,don’t stop making music.” He emphasizes the significance of making music every day because, “As you get into college you’ll keep making music less.”

He notes, “For the people who are still in band, try and remember this isn’t forever and at a certain point you probably will not be making music with people everyday.” Furthermore, he says, “As trite as it sounds in a way it’s really special what you guys.”

Overall, the work of a sub is much more than we set out to believe they truly care for students’ education. Next time give your subs a chance to teach you, give them the love and respect they deserve, and maybe a bond can blossom.

About the Contributors
Jada Abdon
Jada Abdon, Staff Writer
Jada Abdon is a senior at Golden Valley and one of the Community staff writers for the Grizzly Gazette. She's extremely attentive with each task. She enjoys partaking in music, fine arts, plus creative endeavors. Throughout high school she has developed an infatuation with science and writing defining her passion. She has been involved in CSF, National Honor Society, and has been actively doing community service for the past four years. She has been part of the Golden Valley Grizzly Marching Band all through high school. With almost a decade of musical experience playing flute along with an artistic passion she hopes to dive into the following themes. She believes the significance of a journalist provides a wide range of freedom, granting a voice for herself and bearing the responsibility to be as informative as possible to audiences. In her spare time she enjoys playing instruments, playing with her three dogs (two jack Russell and a Labrador), and tending to her farm of chickens.
Emily Doroteo
Emily Doroteo, Digital Editor
Emily Doroteo, paper production, digital editor, is in her Senior year at Golden Valley. Remaining curious about everything has led her here. Emily has always had great interest for a great story. Making curling up with a good book her favorite way to end the week. She enjoys dancing, music and finding small trinkets. A very adventurous spirit that loves any excuse to travel and explore the world. She is a Clarinet player (Yes like Squidward ) with the Golden Valley Marching Band and has been playing for the past six years. She enjoys spending time in our community and is actively volunteering for our local Henry Mayo Hospital. In her free time she enjoys spending quality time with her small zoo of two bulldogs and four cockatiels. As it is her first year in the art of Journalism she hopes to promote articles that embrace our colorful community. She is a proud student journalist that feels empowered to support all of our journalist voices.