Spit balls, tack on the chair, frog in the coffee it's all been done to substitute teachers (at least in books and movies).
The poor souls filling in for teachers have long been the brunt of students' jokes and misbehavior. It seems like substitute teaching would be pure torture.
But for many local seniors substitute teaching is something they thoroughly enjoy - even with the challenges. Their own kids are long past school-age, they have usually enjoyed fulfilling careers and they're eager to share their wisdom with young, impressionable minds.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) Dee Hartman (left) and June Stultz look forward to the beginning of the school year and the opportunity to serve as substitute teachers for the Hollidaysburg Area School District.
Those seniors may be retired, but substitute teaching is a second career for them.
Michael Forosisky, 75, of Altoona goes by "Mr. F" to the students. He spent 35 years in broadcasting sales and management and decided to retire in 2000. After a year of retirement, Forosisky needed more.
"My wife said, 'You have to find something better to do,'" Forosisky said.
His first job after college being a business teacher at Johnstown High School. After five years, he decided to enter the business world to make more money to support his family. After retirement, substitute teaching was the obvious choice for Forosisky.
He started serving as a substitute at Altoona Area School District in 2001 and loves getting to know the kids. Forosisky teaches junior and senior high school students and enjoys seeing the children mature and change through the years.
"I look forward to teaching almost as much as regular teachers do," Forosisky said.
Other substitute teachers feel the same way, especially seniors who enjoy social interaction. Dwight Straesser, human relations director for the Hollidaysburg Area School District, said substituting is mutually beneficial for seniors and students.
"Many times people retire from a job and they're used to interacting on a work basis. They want to feel meaningful and needed, and they want to have a social interaction in a work place," Straesser said. "And they certainly have the life experiences they can share with kids. I think it provides some variety in the students' day."
Dee Hartman, 66, of Altoona went back to school at the age of 48 to earn her teaching degree. Previously, she was the director of the Help Center for Southwestern Blair County for the Global Board of Ministries United Methodist Church. Hartman has an eclectic background including writing, editing and music.
She said substituting allows her the freedom to explore her many interests.
In the classroom, she likes sharing her experiences with the students.
"It gives me a feeling of accomplishment to know that I'm helping someone," she said.
Although schools prefer people with teaching experience to be substitutes, it is not a requirement.
Anyone with a bachelor's degree from an accredited college can become a substitute teacher after undergoing background checks, fingerprinting and a health exam for tuberculosis.
For applicants who do not have a teaching certification, a training program is required at the Intermediate Unit 8 in Altoona.
"The training program is helpful because it's about things they would encounter as a day to day sub," Straesser said. After training, people can be hired by school districts and placed on substitute lists.
Substitutes earn $80 a day and only certified teachers are allowed to substitute longterm or more than 20 days for the same teacher.
When substitutes are needed, they are usually called by 6:30 a.m. that day, or find their assignments online. Some substitutes work every day, while others choose to only teach once or twice a week.
June Stultz, 74, of Duncansville loves the flexibility of substitute teaching for the Hollidaysburg Area School District. She taught full time for five years until she opted to stay home to raise her kids.
Stultz started substituting 45 years ago. She plays tennis twice a week and is involved in bridge clubs, so she works for the district only once or twice a week.
"I love that I can accomplish something and make a difference," Stultz said. "If I can impart a kind of a key to learning or remembering, I feel good."
In the past 45 years, everything has changed from teaching methods to the attitudes of students. Teaching reading used to involve sight words and memorization with no mention of phonics.
"We did not talk about vowels and blends. That has really changed," said Stultz who loves teaching reading.
Math also has changed drastically with lessons becoming more hands-on.
When Forosisky taught he remembers having one electric typewriter in his business class.
"It was for the very best students," he said. "When I went back to subbing, they didn't know what a manual typewriter was."
Sometimes the substitute teachers learn from the kids as much as the kids learn from them. Hartman said it's difficult to teach a subject like German, with which she is unfamiliar.
"I have to count on the smartest students in the classroom to help me," she said.
Hartman remembers one instance when a student showed remarkable leadership skills by helping her teach a literature course.
"He was just a godsend for me in his leadership skills," Hartman said.
Like teachers, substitutes often have a place in their students' hearts.
This summer, Stultz ran into a couple children she taught, and they asked if she was going to be their full-time teacher this year.
"That was such a compliment," said Stultz, who really feels a part of the teaching community because the students, teachers and administrators are so welcoming.
Anyone interested in substitute teaching should contact Intermediate Unit 8 about the training program at 940-0223.