Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

No Substitute for a Good Time

Posted 12/12/2022 by Ravi Apte

Former TJ teacher Leonard Fox substitutes for robotics. photo by Ravi Apte

DPS substitute teachers help keep schools open during challenging times.

Substitute teachers are part of the glue that holds our schools together, allowing students to thrive and learn. These substitutes are integral to Thomas Jefferson High School; without them, the school would fall into a state of chaos from which it might never recover. Some substitutes at TJ fill in almost every week, and have become staple figures in the community. 

Bruce Kapp began his career as an educator in Ripon California as the school’s head football and baseball coach. Although Kapp is now retired, his passion for education and shaping young minds persists. Kapp stated that he likes teaching, “it’s what I do.” Kapp most enjoys helping students learn and succeed in their classes, whether that be math, history, English, etc. “I try to keep the kids motivated and keep them focused so they get their work done,” Kapp commented. He is here at TJ often, filling in whenever he is called upon. Kapp has been subbing for 11 years and counting. When the pandemic began, teachers were getting sick and he was not willing to sit around and do nothing, as Kapp says,“I enjoy working, I don’t want to just sit in the living room all day.” Though his job was very different during the pandemic, Kapp had the willpower to push through the bad until things could return to normal.

Betty Johnson is a retired DPS principal. Johnson continued to fill in at her old school as a substitute principal on occasion, however, during the COVID 19 pandemic she began subbing at TJ. The substitute shortage during this time inspired her to begin. Johnson stated, “I thought why not, why not come and try to help out?”  She mainly subs in CCTM (Communications, and Computer Technologies Magnet) classes and is frequently seen standing in the CCT hallways during passing periods. Johnson keeps on coming back to TJ because of the kind and inviting community and only had kind words when she described the staff and students. Johnson comments, “The opportunities I had to work with those students have been refreshing.” It is because of TJ’s community that Johnson as well as many other subs are willing to serve our school. 

During the pandemic, the demand for substitute teachers increased dramatically, and it was a demand that could not be met. That year, the school truly learned just how important substitutes are. Because of the lack of substitutes, teachers and even administrators used their planning periods to cover classes, often for many days in a row. Many feared that the substitute teacher shortage would cause DPS to pull all students out of schools and start-up online learning once again, potentially for the rest of the school year. Although they didn’t have to, both Johnson and Kapp stepped up to serve our school during this time of uncertainty and worry. It is because of them and others that our schools can function when faced with adversity. They sacrificed their time and energy to teaching, allowing the school to stay open and the learning to continue. 

Our school owes these amazing substitute teachers a massive debt that could not possibly be repaid in full. Without the hard work, time, and experience that they provide to students and teachers, the entire system of education that we have in place would frankly, not be possible and would not exist today. Kapp and Johnson as well as all substitute teachers across our district and our country possess a love for students and a passion for teaching that is truly inspirational. The next time you see a substitute teacher, whether it is in class, in the halls, or at the grocery store, be sure to show your appreciation for all of the work that they do.