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4 Stories about Substitutes as Heroes

Teacher Absences & Subs

Every day, substitutes enter classrooms across the country, ready to tackle new challenges and bring new learning opportunities to every student. And it takes a lot of courage to face a brand-new class of unfamiliar faces every single day, so we think that all substitutes are heroes.

But we’ve put together a list of substitutes who have gone above and beyond – from kidney donations to free lunch programs, read on to see the heroic feats these substitutes have accomplished.

Cindy Santos

To the Ernst family, Cindy Santos is more than a substitute teacher — she’s an angel.

Cindy first met Katelynn Ernst while working as a substitute at Richmond Elementary. And only two weeks later, Cindy was spurred to help after recognizing the kindergartner’s photograph on the Katelynn’s Kidney Journey Facebook page. After months of testing and waiting, she donated a kidney to Katelynn — freeing the little girl from needing 10 hours of dialysis and 12 medications every day.

The transplant was a success, and Cindy and Katelynn now celebrate their “kidney-versary” every year as close friends.

Kristina Buhrman

When Kristina Buhrman filled in as a substitute bus driver for Discovery Academy, she never expected to be a hero. But when the bus caught on fire on the highway, she had to act fast to save all 38 students on board.

She pulled over as flames appeared in the back of the bus, and led the students to safety across a steep ravine — all while on the phone with emergency dispatchers. As a result of her bravery and ability to stay calm, the Florida Highway Patrol awarded her a certificate of appreciation — recognition she considers unnecessary.

“I don’t necessarily feel that I did anything that anybody else wouldn’t do. I was just put in a place that I had to protect the kids that I’m there to protect and that’s what we do.” – Kristina Buhrman

Phyllis Shaughnessy

While working as a substitute, Phyllis Shaughnessy learned that cuts to her district’s lunch program meant that many low-income students would be going without lunch over the summer. Phyllis knew that local families wouldn’t be able to fill the gap left by summer meal program, and decided to take matters into her own hands.

She acquired a caterer’s license, started collecting donations on GoFundMe and began bringing lunches to over 200 children every morning, calling the program “Green Lantern Lunches” after the local restaurant that volunteered its kitchen. It’s been extremely successful: over the course of the program’s first summer, Phyllis and her team of volunteers delivered 10,003 lunches to children in need. The program has grown, with nearly 17,000 lunches delivered in the summer of 2016.

Keren Morrell-Kiernan

After losing her daughter to a MRSA infection in 2007, Keren Morrell-Kiernan coped with her grief by dedicating her life to helping children. She became a certified grief counselor, substitute teacher and founder of Shae’s Place, a safe haven for children where they can receive counseling, tutoring and homework help.

As a result of her hard work with Pascagoula School District’s students, she was honored with the Kelly Educational Staffing National Substitute Teacher of the Year Award. Shirley Hunter, a principal who has worked with Keren extensively, says:

“She is always a wonderful addition to our staff and always has a positive influence on the students and staff… She went above and beyond what a regular sub is expected to do. She was always ready, eager, and willing to help with duty, tutoring in-between planning time and classes. She was team player with our staff.”

Joshua Hallman, a second grader at Lake Elementary, agrees. He brought a bouquet of pink roses to Keren’s award ceremony as a way of showing his gratitude for the daily tutoring Keren provided him throughout an entire semester — bringing his reading proficiency from a 0.9 to a 2.0 and giving him confidence in his abilities.

Know of a substitute who should be on this list? Let us know on Twitter @FrontineEdu

Annie GrunwellAnnie Grunwell

Annie is a writer and part of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She's passionate about learning, exploring data and sharing knowledge. Her specialties include substitute management, the teacher shortage and best practices in human capital management.