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In today’s job market, it’s not unusual to be asked to take on additional duties to help out when short-staffed. Not only does that rule seem to apply to a variety of organizations across the country, but also to the Los Alamos Public Schools District.
On Tuesday, LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt spent his afternoon in Allen Thomas’s pre-algebra class at the middle school. He wasn’t there to observe. Instead, he was substituting for Thomas and teaching the class.
With the help of instructional assistant Sarah Brewer, Schmidt guided students through the lesson plan that Thomas left. Schmidt was no stranger to this particular classroom. He had substituted for Thomas once before. In fact, students and teachers alike might be seeing more of Schmidt around their schools, as he spends more time in the classroom, substituting. Schmidt is looking for ways to spend more time in the schools, getting to know both staff and students on a one-on-one basis. He also wants them to get to know him.
“Two initiatives began to take shape almost simultaneously last August — Dr. Schmidt having expended considerable time and energy coming up to speed in his first two years, learning the heritage and culture of LAPS, steering us through steep funding cuts from the state, building a new high school and spearheading our efforts on the Trinity Site, expressed an interest to the board in wanting to spend more time in the schools …” LAPS Board Vice President Kevin Honnell explained. “The board was concerned how, in light of the budget cuts, the absence of raises for our employees these past four years and the change in leadership, we could help foster the collegiality and esprit de corps needed to attract and retain the best educators and support staff.”
Honnell said the two objectives aligned perfectly and Schmidt offered up the idea of being a substitute teacher for any teacher in the district. The board embraced his suggestion and he was soon taken up on his offer.
Despite the fact that Schmidt’s area of expertise lies in English and history — not math, he said his experience was a positive one.
“It was a great day. I think it becomes a great day because the students are interested in learning,” he said. “They were working on a sign and slope assignment. I was fascinated with the understanding of the students … I credit Mr. Thomas for taking care of them the whole year.”
Schmidt said he’s enthusiastic about being a substitute teacher because as such, he can get to know the students and the characteristics of each class.
“As I learn the style of students, they learn they style of the substitute,” he said.
Schmidt said spending time in the classroom and making himself accessible is important for students, staff and himself.
“The further you get up into administration, the further you get away from the kids. It’s really about the kids,” he said. “ … it helps me connect with the schools. I’m not just the superintendent downtown. I’m interested in getting into the schools and seeing what’s happening at the classroom level.”
Schmidt said he’s looking for other teaching opportunities in other schools. He also said he’d gladly accept invitations to read to elementary children, assist on the playground or help out in any other way he can.