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Video contest winner jumped into teaching

New teacher shares joy of time spent as a sub

Multiple Districts — As a substitute teacher in several districts in the south of Kent County, Sara Westrate knows a bit about jumping.

She jumped into a new lesson every day and into different classes and grade levels in her substitute work, exploring to find the best fit. Then she actually jumped rope in a winning video entry in a contest sponsored by her employment agency, Edustaff.

She credits subbing with helping her gain the experience and confidence needed to land a permanent physical education classroom this fall in a local private school. 

“It was a great experience,” she said. “It helped with getting a foot in the door with different schools, teachers, grade levels.

EDUStaff is a proud sponsor of SNN

“In coming to teaching, I thought I wanted the elementary level, but by subbing and becoming a teaching assistant, I found I really love high school. Since the age difference isn’t much (from her own), I can relate to high schoolers and build relationships.”

With a degree in physical education from Grand Valley State University, she said she studied health, but it was working with students during the pandemic that made her truly realize “how important it is for our bodies to be healthy.” She said it also brought home the impact of physical health on students’ social and mental health.

This passion about health, fitness and education led her to enter the Edustaff “Why I Sub” video contest. She said she wanted to find a fun way to combine them for her contest entry and came across a video clip of someone jumping rope. She decided to use jump-roping in her video about subbing and it earned her a spot in the contest’s top three – out of 80 total entries.

‘Don’t forget to have fun with the kids; it’s such a great profession.’

— Sara Westrate, substitute teacher and video contest winner

The sub contest videos add personal stories from substitute teachers to the series of videos available on the Edustaff website. The videos cover a wide range of topics about teaching and classroom management.

Edustaff has been holding the “Why I Sub” Contest since 2018. 

“We always air the top winners during the Week of Substitute Appreciation, normally the first full week in May,” said Angeline R. Noble, director of marketing. “We wanted to hear from our employees on why they love to sub and why they want to make a difference. It keeps getting bigger each year, and the feedback from employees is fantastic.” 

Some teachers who enter the contest are new to the profession, and others have been working in the classroom for several years. While the videos show a variety of reasons why they like the work, many share the passion they have for education and how they love to watch children learn and grow

“Some employees submit videos of themselves jumping rope, playing a musical instrument, singing their reasons in rap format, and others just talk from the heart,” Noble said.

“If people have a passion to make a difference, they would be a great fit in the classroom. … We have a high need for substitute teachers – we hope the videos spark interest and get others to apply, too.”

Edustaff is an education-focused substitute staffing organization based in the Grand Rapids area, serving public school districts across the country. They are a School News Network sponsor.

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