Familiar faces around campus: Lynbrook’s substitute teachers

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Familiar faces around campus: Lynbrook’s substitute teachers

Srinidhi Seshadri

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When teachers are feeling under the weather or attending training sessions, their classes can be left in limbo. It is at times like these when substitute teachers step in to save the day, ensuring classes can continue as planned. At Lynbrook, substitute teachers Shirley Pimentel, Aaron Harper and Kent Humpall have become familiar faces around campus.

 

Shirley Pimentel

After 25 years of teaching PE full-time, Shirley Pimentel decided to retire to start a family. However, soon after, she realized she missed what teaching brought to her life and returned to FUHSD classrooms as a substitute teacher. As a substitute teacher for more than 12 years, Pimentel is extremely familiar with the routine of the job.

“The students keep me young,” Pimentel said. “A lot of people that are my age are ready for the rocking chair, but kids have so much energy, I just bounce off of them.”

While interacting with a variety of students on a daily basis is the one aspect of teaching that Pimentel enjoys the most, she also benefits from the flexibility that being a substitute provides. An enthusiastic traveler, Pimentel has more freedom in choosing when to travel as a substitute teacher. Before she journeys abroad, Pimentel likes asking her students for suggestions and recommendations on food and attractions at her destination. Additionally, she makes it a point to share her experiences with her students when she returns.

“When she substituted for my class while we did the unit on the Vietnam War, she brought in photos and information that she had from going there,” said history teacher Steven Roy. “She brings something to the classroom besides showing up and taking roll, which I really appreciate.”

The biggest drawback that comes with substitute teaching is the difficulty of bonding with students on a deeper level since substitutes do not spend as much time with the same group of students.

“I don’t really get to know the kids as well as I would like,” Pimentel said. “But when I substituted a week for Mr. Roy’s class, I got to know some of the students and the problems that they were having in class.”

Pimentel’s years of experience help her teach her students about life as well as advise them about the future. Her priority is to ensure that students get the help they need and grow through a quality education.

“The thing students need to remember is, people can take everything away from you, except an education,” Pimentel said. “An education will always remain with you.”

Pimentel truly enjoys the invigorating environment that Lynbrook provides and appreciates the support that the students and faculty provide. Though she will be turning 80 later this year, her age does not deter her from showing up to every new class with a smile on her face.

 

Aaron Harper

After a brief career in archaeology, substitute teacher Aaron Harper realized that the constant traveling that came with the job was not the best fit for him. Then, the idea of a teaching career popped up in a conversation with a friend. He picked up tutoring for a while as a requisite for his teaching credentials, but when tutoring opportunities became hard to find, he turned toward substitute teaching. Following a few short-term substitute stints, Harper is currently the long-term substitute for culinary teacher Megan Miller, who is on maternity leave. As her substitute, he is also the stand-in adviser for Lynbrook’s Cooking Club.

“Throughout this entire year, [Harper’s] been willing to help us with anything. He listens to our ideas and helps us implement them as well as we can,” said senior and Cooking Club officer Jodi Wong. “When we have an idea for a specific activity, often he’ll immediately pull out a good recipe that he knows and he’s always willing to put in the extra effort just to help us out.”

While Harper would like to eventually teach social studies, his interest in cooking and past experience working in kitchens comes in handy for the job. Harper enjoys passing on knowledge to his students, regardless of the subject matter.

“There’s an honest, really good feeling when you see a student get it,” Harper said. “I have passed it on, this knowledge, this information, this skill; it’s making its way over.”

As a first-year long-term substitute teacher, Harper spent a majority of the year ensuring that his curriculum was well-rounded. However, this has prevented him from being as involved in Lynbrook’s events as he would have liked.

“Just now, as I’m starting to find a groove, and I’m starting to participate more in the outside-the-classroom activities that Lynbrook is having, we’re almost at the end,” Harper said. “So, if I were here for a second year, I would definitely be more involved.”

Even though Harper is a long-term substitute, teaching the same group of students everyday, he still finds difficulty in prolonging connections with students since substitute teachers are not a permanent part of campus life.

“Because I’m a substitute, I know I’m going to be leaving,” Harper said. “Even my own students often forget that I’m not going to be around for the next year, and when they realize they do lament that.”

Even though Harper will be leaving Lynbrook soon, he still hopes to return as a short-term substitute and continue to foster relationships with his students. He finds Lynbrook welcoming and supportive for both teachers and students alike.

“I don’t think people who’ve been out of Lynbrook can appreciate enough what a nice school it is,” Harper said. “The student population is very accommodating toward their teachers, and even though people tend to lose focus of the big picture, this is actually a really great environment.”

Even though Harper will not be a long-term substitute next year, students will still be able to catch him on campus as a short-term substitute for various classes. He will continue to share his knowledge with students and help them grow as individuals.

 

Kent Humpal

A teaching credential in hand, substitute teacher Kent Humpal was on the lookout for a job when an opportunity to substitute fell into his lap. This marked the beginning of his 40-year-long career in substitute teaching.

After teaching in Susanville, where he used to live, for just three years, Humpal decided to move down to the Bay Area to be closer with his family. His father had passed away, and moving back to Mountain View allowed him to better provide for his mother. Growing up in the area as well as teaching at the FUHSD schools for most of his career, Humpal has seen how the community in and around Lynbrook has changed over the years.

“I had members of some very illustrious gangs in classes years ago. [Gangs] were big for a while, and now, you never hear about them in this area,” Humpal said. “Academics has gone way up, which is a combination of increased student effort and possibly a higher expectation for the teachers than there was before.”

In addition to the cultural environment, the physical elements of the area have changed as well. Humpal has watched orchards transform into the suburban locale that Lynbrook currently resides in.

“It used to be that cities were actually separate,” Humpal said. “When I was in high school and played sports, we used to think, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to Morgan Hill — that’s way out in the boondocks.’”

79-year-old Humpal is one of the youngest residents of the retirement home he currently resides in. As a substitute, he enjoys the interactions he has with students and teachers of younger generations. He finds the change in pace refreshing and something to keep him occupied.

Another aspect of substitute teaching that Humpal benefits from is not having to grade students’ assignments.

“I absolutely hated assigning grades to people,” Humpal said. “If it was cut and dry, it’s fine, but [grading for] students on the marginal edge, I hated that.”

Today, Humpal is a recognizable face not only at Lynbrook but at other schools in the district as well. His insight from years of teaching and living in the area lends itself to interesting conversations that he looks forward to having with students.