The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion For the love of teaching — but not of math

Children in North Plainfield, N.J., on Oct. 25.
Children in North Plainfield, N.J., on Oct. 25. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
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I am a substitute teacher in Montgomery County. The Oct. 28 Metro article “Montgomery schools staff feel pressure amid personnel shortages” missed two salient facts. (A) Substitutes are paid less than babysitters in the county. And (B) The outmoded licensing requirements of degreed teachers. I possess a bachelor of arts degree in creative writing and theater arts. Fluent in Spanish and French, I am also a published essayist and winner of poetry awards.

I love teaching. Nothing matches the profound satisfaction of a young voice piercing the hurly-burly between classes, shouting out, “Mr. Pedraza! The best substitute ever!” Though that compensates for poor pay and zero benefits, I want to be certified. A mathematics requirement (which I will never use) keeps me from full-fledged certification.  

Students would have a devoted and impassioned educator in me. Instead, they must make do with whom the county deems worthy. The pandemic gave me time to realize I was overworked and underappreciated. I still sub a few days a week, but my commitment is now equal to the county’s commitment to educators such as me: lackadaisical. 

René Pedraza del Prado, Potomac