Substituting from the Heart

A look into the lives of substitutes we see each day

PC: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Aya Kasim, Staff Writer

When teachers are out for school events, are sick, or simply cannot come to school,  it is substitutes who ultimately save the day. Flexible and versatile, these individuals move from class to class, interacting with several students along the way. However, what do these students know about their substitutes? Because of inconsistency or plain lack of time, students are not often able to really learn about their temporary teachers. To combat this injustice, here is a look into the lives of only a few out of the many great substitutes we encounter each day:  

Kitty Montgomery

You can often see her in the halls or in your classrooms, sporting a bright smile to go along with her bright and colorful clothing. Montgomery is a relatively new face in the faculty family, but is already leaving a great mark everywhere she goes. 

“She’s always excited to teach and tell you what you’re doing right,” senior Brianna Barclay said. “She loves bringing a positive attitude to the classroom.”

Though born in Dallas, Montgomery attended Corpus Christi State for college, majoring in English. For a while, she worked in property management before becoming an English teacher–a job she cherished for 24 years. 

“My favorite part of being a substitute is that I get to teach all the subjects,” Montgomery said. “I like getting to know a whole high school of students instead of just one classroom.”

Though she has only substituted for two years, Montgomery has lived in Castroville for twenty. 

“Being here has been so good for my heart; everyone is wonderful,” Montgomery said. “It is known as the best school around. Ever.”

Dedicating most of her life to teaching and guiding others, Montgomery hopes all students know “to have diverse interests. Make sure to cover all your bases just in case things don’t work out, you can pursue other careers.”

And, just as we learn from teachers, teachers learn from us.

“I’ve learned to always have enthusiasm and make sure to teach to the interest of the students, so they enjoy learning.”

Leanna Ahr

Mrs. Ahr is a well known name among faculty and students. Substituting for 13 years, Ahr jokes that it has been “Too long.” She is considered a stickler for rules, but does it out of love for her students and for the safety of all.

“Mrs. Ahr is so hilarious and nice,” senior Austin Pinado said. “If she is subbing, I make sure to shake my ID, so she knows I have it.”

Also born in Dallas, Ahr attended St. Philips, UTSA, and Palo Alto and gained three associate degrees along the way:  Liberal Arts, Legal Secretary, and Education (English).

When reminiscing over all the careers she’s pursued, Ahr says, “I’ve done everything.” Just to name a few, Ahr has worked in airport security, life guarded, had a top secret clearance position in the government, has been a paralegal, cleaned houses, and taught piano and clarinet.

Ahr did not initially work at Medina Valley as a substitute. Ahr began as a bus aid then worked her way up. At one point, she was told that bus aids were to be let go soon, but that if she became a driver, then maybe they would give her the job. So, she did just that.

“Now, they have classes to help you become a bus driver, but I had to do it all on my own,” Ahr said. “After my rounds, I would park my truck outside of the building, sit underneath a tree, and study for my tests.”

Some doubted that Ahr could become a bus driver, but she focused, worked hard, and earned her position. From that life lesson and many more, she urges students,  “don’t give up. No matter what you’re doing. Even if it’s weird, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.”

After becoming a substitute and spending several years around students, Ahr has learned “to have a better attitude about kids being right. They used to say ‘kids are always wrong!’, but now I’ve learned that, sometimes, kids are right.”

Sarah Tondre

Mrs. Tondre is one of the longest working substitutes at the high school. Adored for her gentle demeanor, she said that she has been substituting for 17 years, but later went on to realize that, “it’s probably been longer than that.”

“I love Ms. Tondre,” junior Christopher Child said. “She’s so fun to talk to. She has so much wisdom and stories to tell. And, she’s funny!”

Tondre was born in Boerne and later went into Business and bookkeeping after attending SAC and Texas State. 

Tondre found herself at Medina Valley after meeting her husband in college, a Castroville native.

“My favorite part of substituting is interacting with the students,” Tondre said. “There have been too many memorable moments to recall.”

With many years of experience under her belt, Tondre wants students to remember to “do [their] work. Make sure to listen to what teachers are telling you. That’s the biggest mistake [students] make, they don’t listen.”

As students have come and gone, Tondre has realized that “kids are good, but they are very careless in following instruction.”

This has only been a glimpse into the intricate lives of three wonderful faculty members. There is still much more to learn–not only from Montgomery, Ahr, and Tondre, but from all substitutes. So, remember to say hi, spark up a conversation, and see what might just happen.