Substitute Spotlight: Tara Underwood
North Gulfport K-8 School, Harrison County, MS
Tara is a 28-year-old mother. She has a daughter, two stepchildren, and cares for her niece and nephew. She loves to help children. She started working as a substitute teacher in 2022 during the pandemic when there was a severe shortage of teachers.
Why did you decide to become a substitute teacher?
I have dreamed about becoming a teacher since I was a little girl. After high school, I worked in a church daycare for six years. Then, I saw an ad on Facebook about substitute teaching. So, I signed up to get more experience with older students and to see if I’d want to pursue it as a career. I do! I’m now half-way through an associate degree and plan to get my bachelor’s degree next to become a full-time teacher.
My job as a substitute teacher has opened the door for me to see all the career possibilities in schools. I feel like I belong here and I can grow.
What's your secret to success? What advice do you have for a new substitute teacher?
- Be positive and don’t expect things to be handed to you.
- Ask questions––especially from other teachers.
- Remember, you aren’t there to be the students’ friend. You are there to teach.
- If you are too soft or aren’t in control, students will take advantage of you.
- If a lesson plan is not available, ask an administrator for work.
- If students get done with their work early, print out a subject and age-appropriate word search.
What do you like best about substitute teaching?
I love all the students. They inspire me every day. I especially enjoy the second graders because they have fun, unique personalities. I enjoy helping the older students too. It’s incredible how much the students want to share about their lives. It's rewarding to be able to encourage them when they need to be lifted up.