Spectacular Substitutes

Part-time teachers tell their stories


Blythe Eickerman teaches a French 4 class.

Graphics by Pascale Carlson and Sydney Goitia-Doran

This summer, Judy Ghavamian and Blythe Eickerman met to get lunch and bond over nostalgic memories from their time working and attending University Prep. Little did they know they would soon be colleagues, working together as substitute teachers and making their mark on the community. 

Ghavamian worked at UPrep for nearly 25 years before retiring in 2017. She is now a long-term English substitute teacher to fill her time, after working as an on-call sub. 

“One good thing about being a sub is that you get to learn so much about how other teachers teach,” Ghavamian said.

She also appreciates getting to know students and the spirit of the UPrep community. In her experience, students have treated her kindly. 

“I mean, I’ve gotten sweet notes from kids thanking me for substituting, and I love when you recognize me in the hallway, ask me to sub in their class again,” Ghavamian said. “Those gracious moments are just lovely.”

A UPrep alum and long term substitute teacher, Eickerman also appreciates building relationships with students. She graduated from Whitman College in 2021, where she spent a year being a resident director before joining Ghavamian, her old English teacher, for lunch. Ghavamian told her about her on-call substituting job and recommended it. 

“I really enjoy helping others and ideally helping others learn,” Eickerman says. 

Both substitute teachers agree that interacting with students is also a perk of working at UPrep. Eickerman also coaches ultimate. 

“It’s cool because some students I see both in an academic and athletic setting,” Eickerman said. Eickerman gives the benefit of the doubt to misbehaving classes because she understands the desire for a day off when the class has a substitute teacher. “You have a different person in the classroom and you don’t have a relationship with them,” Eickerman said. 

If a class is unfocused, Eickerman will highlight a positive in her report. However, when cheating occurs, Eickerman has to put her foot down. She once caught a student cheating during a quiz, and found it difficult to deal with because she didn’t already have a relationship with the student.  According to Eickerman, subs know when people aren’t doing their work. Eickerman says if students don’t do their work in class they will just have to do it as homework. The bottom line for her is that subs deserve respect. 

“You need to respect subs and understand that they’re getting thrown into it just the way that students are,” Eickerman said. 

Eickerman is content with where she is now and is looking forward to the future.

“I could see myself continuing for maybe another year or so,” Eickerman said. “I also have applied to graduate schools for international relations.” 

Although she believes it will be nice to go back to the occasional subbing routine, Ghavamian is happy too. She appreciates the classroom involvement and planning things. 

“There will be parts of teaching that again, I’ll have to wean myself away from so I don’t know,” Ghavamian said. “I guess I’ll keep coming back until I can’t do it anymore.”

Graphic by Sydney Goitia-Doran