In normal times, it takes a lot to make a school run smoothly.
These are not normal times.
Administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, nurses, custodians, cafeteria workers, coaches — they’ve gotten well-deserved shout-outs for helping Staples High School make it through COVID.
No one ever says anything about substitutes.
Well, social studies instructor Drew Coyne does. He calls Staples’ 7-person team — John Ogletree, Robert Baskin, Paula Marturano, Edward Groth, Matthew Jacowleff, Lisa Pulic and Claudia Lonkin — “the unsung heroes of this academic year.”
Maryann Garcia, the secretary who oversees the subs, agrees. “I always say, I have the best group of substitutes. They may have to cover 4 or 5 different teachers and class in one day. It is such a fluid situation — especially this year — and they always respond to last-minute directions.”
The subs go far beyond covering a class. Coyne was quarantined at home in January, the day after insurrectionists took over the Capitol. Baskin brought his experience in Washington — he’d served as chief of staff to former Connecticut Representative Sam Gejdenson — to the conversation. He helped students process the event, and answered their questions.
“Bob wasn’t my substitute. He was my co-teacher,” Coyne says. “He brought insight and perspective to those days for me.”
English teacher Barb Robbins agrees. She cites Baskins 1-on-1 work since last March to provide support for a student. “It’s incredible,” she says. “He spends countless hours keeping the student focused.”
Ogletree also meets with a student on remote days, checking in as an important connection.
It’s easy to think of substitute teachers as stereotypes from movies, or wannabe teachers trying to prevent classroom mayhem.
Staples’ subs — and those in the 7 other district schools — are professionals. They’re well-educated, passionate and very talented men and women.
And they are — deservedly — this week’s “06880” Unsung Heroes.