Retired pastor aims to fill a need as a substitute teacher

Published 3:25 pm Sunday, March 5, 2023

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It’s no secret that school districts across the country are looking for substitute teachers. And for some, teaching on a substitute basis is just what employees are looking for, especially those who’ve already worked a full-time job.

John Holt is one of those people.

“One of my themes of life has been, ‘Find a hurt and heal it; find a need and fill it,’” he said.

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As a member of the Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club and hearing a presentation about the need for substitute teachers, and talking to school board members at the time, Dave Klatt and Jill Marin, he reached out to the district.

“I love kids, and I have a little bit of experience teaching as a parish pastor, and I always loved Confirmation instruction and doing Bible study classes,” he said.

His wife served as a first-grade teacher and told him she thought he would be good at it, so he thought he would give it a try.

Holt, who retired as pastor from First Lutheran Church, found out anyone with a four-year college degree can apply for a substitute teacher’s license through the state.

Holt was approved to substitute last May and wound up teaching an elementary special education class, a third-grade class, an eighth-grade science class and a middle school special education class.

“I liked it, so I thought I’ll do that again in the fall,” he said.

A typical day of substitute teaching starts the evening before, where he may get an automated call asking if he would be interested in teaching the next day. He may even get a call the morning of.

And after reporting in at 7:30 a.m., he’ll go the office to receive instructions.

“The other teachers in that grade level are so helpful,” he said. “They’ll come by and check on me.”

But ultimately, substituting is “just teaching classes,” and said using a smart board was similar to PowerPoint.

“It’s fun,” he said. “I find it very engaging. The day goes quickly because I’m stressing to see what I do next and following the lesson plans very carefully, which are very clear.”

But it’s also a little different.

“It’s all-day,” he said. “It’s an eight-hour commitment.”

And that, he said, kept him engaged throughout the day. The principal and teachers may also stop by throughout the day to check on him.

While he enjoys it, he’s happy he didn’t get into teaching earlier in life, but said the experience has taught him he learns with the students he teaches.

“Even something I know, I learn it a little bit better when I teach it,” he said.

He called his work fulfilling and admitted after a day ended he wanted to do it again.

‘“I find every time I’ve substitute-taught, I’ve been thanked over and over again,” he said. “I walk in the door. They say, ‘Thank you for being a substitute teacher.’ The principal maybe will stop by and say, ‘Thank you so much for doing this.’ The other teachers will say thank you.”

“I’ll say, ‘I hear thank yous all over the school, they’re very appreciative. The other staff are very helpful.’”

He is also encouraging other people he knows who are retired to consider substitute teaching.

“It’s really fun and you could be good at it,” he said.

Holt, who grew up outside Ellsworth, Iowa, and has a degree in accounting and worked in auditing, left the profession to become a pastor, where he served in North Dakota and Minnesota, where he was called in 2002 to First Lutheran Church. He served there until his retirement in the spring of 2021.

But after only a few months of retirement, he felt the urge to continue serving.

“I’m healthy, I’ve been a really good steward of the life and energy God has given me,” he said.