Madison subs bring enthusiasm, passion to the classroom



Sonia Samantaroy, Editor-in-Chief

After battling through the swarms of bodies in the hallways, one of a student’s favorite feelings is the moment they walk into a classroom and see a substitute teacher. Whether it be a surprise or already known, it’s refreshing to see a new face at the front of the room. 

Recently, the nation is facing a shortage of substitute teachers due to a variety of issues: concerns for public health, low salaries, and an increased demand for full-time teaching positions. Madison, however, is lucky to have some great regular subs.

Mr. Hoban

James Hoban has been subbing at Madison for the past 10 years. After having a career as an investment banker and lawyer, he sold his company. With his kids gone and off to college, he wanted something new to fill his time. Hoban began subbing around Northern Virginia, from O’Connell to Marshall. However, Madison soon became his favorite and he requested just to sub there. 

“There were three categories that drew me to Madison,” Hoban said. “I really liked the students, the faculty were forthright and cared for their students and the administration always seemed ahead of the curve, offering great programs for students.”

In addition to substitute teaching four to five days a week in various classrooms, Hoban was a long-term sub for STEM engineering classes several years ago. As he knew nothing about engineering, the students stepped up.

“They were all honors classes so the kids came up to me after about the third day and they said, ‘Mr H, don’t worry we’ll teach you how to teach us’ and they did,” Hoban said. 

Due to the national shortage in subs, Hoban has seen an increase in demand for substitute teachers, constantly turning down positions because he’s already booked. 

“I’m going to take off so many days, I already have bookings in May because they know they’re going away for a wedding or something.” Hoban said. “If somebody does get sick, and they ask for the same day, a lot of times I’m already booked.” 

Hoban immensely enjoys being a substitute teacher, finding great joy in building connections with students. Through his substitute teacher tenure, he has seen freshmen grow up and mature into seniors, even keeping in touch with graduated students. 

“My favorite part is that we’re not teachers, we are facilitators,” Hoban said. “We get a game plan from the teacher and we try to execute it with the students. You kids are our future so I like to watch that maturity level go up.”

Mrs. Lebendig 

“If I’m asked to sub…I’m so sorry, I’m getting distracted because there’s a feral cat that lives nearby that just caught a bird and I was trying to figure out what it was,” popular Madison substitute Jennifer Lebendig said. Anyone who has had Lebendig as a sub would not be surprised by this comment. Lebendig is known for her fun in-class remarks and upbeat personality.

Jennifer Lebendig, a former biology teacher who still has a current teaching licence, part-time subs exclusively at Madison about once a week. Her husband, English teacher Marc Lebendig, also works at Madison. Their commute to Madison from Ruckersville, 20 minutes north of Charlottesville, is almost two hours. Because of her biology background, she prefers positions of that nature.

“Whenever it is available, I try to move things around so I can sub for bio or environmental [science],” Lebendig said. “Those are right up my alley but I’ll sub for different subjects.”

Her favorite experiences as a substitute teacher are forming relationships, teaching material and encouraging students. It also allows Lebendig to not deal with the tedious parts of teaching such as meetings.

“When you substitute teach, and are actually teaching,” Lebendig said. “It’s all of the best parts of teaching, and none of the bad parts.” 

One of the down sides of subbing is the lack of connection with students. In addition, there is no difference in salary for licenced teachers compared to other subs. Only retired teachers who taught in FCPS are compensated with higher pay. 

“I don’t think subs at Madison tend to be ‘warm bodies,’ but in general, subs can be just treated like supervisors and it would be nice to get recognition for the training, certifications, and licences that I have for teaching,” Lebendig said. “That makes me want to get back into the classroom as a teacher.”

Mrs. Eachus

Beth Eachus started subbing because of the pandemic. Her son, Jackson Eachus (’22), has autism and struggled with online education. As a result, Eachus needed to sit by him during each of his classes in order for him to be able to participate.

“I realized that other parents may not have the flexibility that I do,” Eachus said. “I talked to Mr. Hood over the summer and asked, ‘What we can do? I know that it is incredibly hard on teachers and administrators, so what can we, as parents, do?’”

One of the issues Madison was experiencing was the lack of substitute teachers and the need for classroom monitors. 

“I signed up and got four or five other people to sign up with me,” Eachus said. 

Eachus’ most recent substitute job was as a long-term sub for Sarah Njomo, an English teacher, while she was on maternity leave.

“For long-term subbing you’re really working with students, teaching the lessons, giving out assignments, helping with the grading,” Eachus said. “It’s much more like being a teacher when you’re a long-term substitute.”

Seeing the same group for an extended period of time allowed Eachus to build stronger relationships with the students, getting to know them more deeply. She loves being a substitute for high school because it’s a time where students are discovering their identity at an academic, emotional and social level. However, Eachus initially had some reservations about taking on a long-term sub position. 

“I just worried, ‘Was I doing enough?’” Eachus said. “Was I doing everything that [the students] needed to be successful, whether it be academically, emotionally, or preparing them for the class?”

Nevertheless, Eachus was heavily supported by the Madison staff, working closely with Dr. Elizabeth Dean, an instructional coach, and Cathi Ferrick, another English teacher. She also pulled material from Oakton’s AP Literature program for additional assistance. Even though Eachus did not initially start out in education, she’s grown to love the position and the students she interacts with. 

“I had been a strategic consultant, so this is very different from what I had ever done before,” Eachus said. “I really enjoy this age group because you guys are exploring who you are, what you want to do, and what’s next for you. Even though I may not have known much about AP Physics last year as a classroom monitor, I was there to listen and support people emotionally and that really was important to me. People always had stories or things they were going through and I tried to help when I could.”