Retired teacher nears goal of subbing at every school
“Wait, so if you’re retired, why are you still teaching so much?”
The seventh-grade boy at Lux Middle School was confused. The substitute teacher standing before his algebra class that day, Susan Hertzler, introduced herself as a retired teacher. She taught with Lincoln Public Schools for 33 years, including her last 10 at Lincoln High School, before retiring in May 2017.
By February 2018, she realized how much she missed the classroom and threw herself in to substitute teaching. Since then, Hertzler has taught at 55 of the 65 LPS schools and focus programs, with three new schools on her schedule during the coming weeks. Her goal is to teach at all 65.
Hertzler told that curious student that she still loved to teach and to be around students. “And I love doing something different every day.”
Hertzler taught math and English Language Learner courses at a variety of schools in addition to Lincoln High during her years as a full-time teacher, including Lincoln East High School and Park, Lefler and Culler middle schools.
She retired sooner than she originally planned in order to care for her ill father and mother-in-law. They both passed away within 10 months after her retirement.
“Afterwards I was craving the joy, spontaneity and full-of-life kids that had been part of my world prior to losing my parents,” she said. “I also knew that LPS was and is always looking for substitute teachers, so the decision to return just seemed right.”
One of her first assignments to substitute teach was at Saratoga Elementary School, where her father attended. “When I walked in to Saratoga that month after losing my dad I thought to myself, ‘What a beautiful building,’ and was sad that I couldn't go home and visit with my dad about his memories of that school.”
Hertzler grew curious about all of the LPS schools and programs: How many were there? Were they all this beautiful? She made it a goal to substitute teach at all of them, which means she’s teaching almost every day and has assignments booked several months in advance.
“I’ve been in all kinds of classrooms, which has really opened my eyes to all of the amazing work that is done by so many LPS employees,” she said.
Her eyes have also been opened to the physical beauty of LPS schools. Hertzler tries to take at least one photo at every building, then later posts the photos on her Instagram account. Her photos attempt to capture the hidden beauty of schools: the symmetry of lunchroom tables at Meadow Lane Elementary School; tiny hands playing rock-paper-scissors at Pershing Elementary School; the morning sun slicing through clouds and shining on the rocket sculpture outside Lincoln Northeast High School.
“When I was teaching full time I had less time to really see all of the really neat parts of my day. When you sub, you generally have a plan period where you don't have responsibilities and I started wandering around the different buildings and I was amazed by something new every day,” she said. “It was sort of like when the Wizard of Oz went from black and white to color - everything just became more alive.”
Click your heels together and say it three times: There’s no place like Lincoln Public Schools.
Published: February 19, 2019, Updated: February 19, 2019