Temporary teachers

Several BVNW teachers are on or planning on going on maternity leave this school year. With a transition to classes conducted by long term substitutes, students discuss differences in the learning environment due to the absence of their original teachers.


TJ Vore

Substitute teacher for Spanish teacher Kari Hillen, Garciela Scannapieco, instructs her fifth hour Spanish 3.5 class in place of Hillen.

With several teachers at BVNW this school year who went on maternity leave or are planning on going on maternity leave, long term substitutes take the place of the teachers on leave.

Spanish teacher Kari Hillen is currently on maternity leave until the end of third quarter. Hillen’s substitute is Spanish teacher Garciela Scannapieco.

Before coming to BVNW to substitute for Hillen, Scannapieco said she was a long term substitute for many high school and elementary school Spanish teachers. Scannapieco, prior to substituting for Hillen, said she did not expect any problems, as everybody is very receptive in the Blue Valley school district.

She said there have not been any major problems with any of her classes, but she has faced some challenges. Scannapieco said she has received help from staff and students while adjusting to her classes.

“It has been a little bit of a challenge to figure out if the students really understand or if they feel uncomfortable raising their hands,” Scannapieco said. “But Hillen left a bunch of good material , and all the Spanish teachers have been very welcoming and helpful, and if I need help, they just come and help me.”

Junior Courtney Neilson, a student in Hillen’s Honors Spanish 4.0 class, said there have been many changes to the class environment due to Hillen’s absence. She said people in the class tend to put in less effort and pay less attention because there is a substitute.

Junior Tejas Mahabaleshwarkar also has Hillen for Honors Spanish 4.0 and said with a substitute, the intensity of the class has dropped, as students are not forced to speak Spanish or work very hard on assignments.

There’s always some anxiety because at this point in the year, we’ve gotten comfortable and we’ve built a relationship. I’m a little bit of a control freak, so it’s hard for me to hand over the reins to someone else, because I know no matter how awesome they are, it’s not quite the way that I would do it.”

— Lindsay Gulbranson

“It’s much looser with Hillen on leave,” Mahabaleshwarkar said. “We’re not as tense or stressed, but at the same time, that’s not a good thing. It’s a bad thing if you’re trying to learn, because with Hillen teaching, it’s a good type of stress where you’re being pushed to learn.”

Scannapieco said some students tend to believe they can get away with anything with a substitute teaching, especially regarding behavior. She said students are sometimes talkative or not engaged in what she is teaching. In addition to these students, she said there are students who participate and ask for help. However, Scannapieco said she does not know if classes normally operate in this manner.

“There are the really good students that want to learn and will always pay attention and learn what the teacher teaches,” Scannapieco said. “But there are some cases where students study other subjects or check their phones. With students checking their phones, though – I have talked to other Spanish teachers and they say they struggle with the same thing, so that is something I share with the regular classroom.”

English teacher Lindsay Gulbranson is planning to go on maternity leave from March 25 to May 6. She said she will be part of the process of picking her substitute and is looking for a person who has an English background and would be able to grade papers and plan lessons independently.

Mahabaleshwarkar has Gulbranson as an AP Language and Composition teacher and said her enthusiasm for the subject translates to her students, something that may not happen with a substitute.

“I don’t know who [Gulbranson’s] replacement is, but I don’t think anyone could match her enthusiasm,” Mahabaleshwarkar said. “She makes the class fun, like Mrs. Hillen. She adds in little stories from her life or something that she thinks is funny, and then she compares it to whatever we’re learning, so we can connect to it.”

Hillen with her son, husband and newborn baby (photo provided by Hillen).

Gulbranson said her time away may cause some uneasiness among students because she has built relationships with her classes and they have become accustomed to each other.

“There’s always some anxiety because at this point in the year, we’ve gotten comfortable and we’ve built a relationship.” Gulbranson said.  “It’s hard for me to hand over the reins to someone else, because I know no matter how awesome they are, it’s not quite the way that I would do it.”

Gulbranson said although she is looking forward to having a baby and spending time with her children, she will miss her students and having adult interactions in school.

Neilson said for most students, it is hard to accept substitute teachers because of the bonds students built with their original teachers.

“The teachers at BVNW have a lot of experience, and they really get to know their students a lot,” Neilson said. “When new teachers come in, they don’t have a lot of time to get to know students as well or as much, so it affects the learning environment because people aren’t as willing to accept the new teacher.”

Like Neilson, Mahabaleshwarkar said teachers at BVNW are very knowledgeable and dedicated to their students, so it is hard for students to adjust to a substitute who does not know them as well.

“When you’ve already adjusted to their enthusiasm and their classroom environment and then get a new sub, you have to adjust again to that, it’s usually less of an environment incorporating education and fun, like normal,” Mahabaleshwarkar said.

Gulbranson said although there is anxiety surrounding her maternity leave, she knows with her team of English teachers and hardworking students, the transition to a substitute teacher will be relatively smooth.

“It’s hard to be gone, and it’s hard to not be gone,” Gulbranson said. “I love that my team pulls together and picks up any slack from me. I love that my students are resilient and they’re able to make the best of the situation, and they treat the long term subs better than they would treat me, which is more than I could ask for.”