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A Recent College Grad’s Unexpected Journey Into Teaching

PULLMAN, WASH – “My mom was actually the one who suggested it. She said if you’re going to take a year off, there’s such a desperate need for subs anywhere you go, why don’t you do that. That’s a good flexible job, you get paid pretty well, you know it will look good on a resume,” Madeline Fulkerson said.

Madeline graduated from Washington State University last spring with a double degree in Psychology and Human Development. She was hoping to take this year to work occasionally and apply for grad school with the ultimate goal of becoming a school counselor.  

“I’m currently working as a substitute teacher at Sunnyside Elementary School. I’m the SPED teacher roll, so I’m working in the resource room,” Madeline said.

This position is not something she expected to do, she was not looking for a long term position and was hoping for some flexibility. However, like many places the Pullman School District is facing staffing shortages.

“It kind of varies everyday of how often we have a shortage, sometimes it’s everyday and then we’re scrambling to cover that,” Pam Brantner, Principle of Sunnyside Elementary said.  

Emergency substitutes like Madeline have become vital to the operation of the school. 

 “If we didn’t have them we wouldn’t be able to stay open, and so then it would just extend the school year and it wouldn’t be a good learning course for the students either”

The school district has become desperate for people to fill these positions. To become an emergency substitute you don’t have to have a teaching degree… just a bachelor’s degree. You need to  fill out an application on the district website and be fingerprinted for a background check. 

Madeleine’s lack of experience in a classroom has been challenging at times.

“The hard part about not having a teaching degree is I don’t know how to lesson plan, what are the goals, what are the learning targets, all of that,” Madeline said. 

She has had to adjust, ask for help and remember her ultimate goal as an educator 

“At the end of the day you are there to love on these kids and be a constant in their lives and that’s what you’re doing, if their not getting, you know that extra math worksheet or whatever, that’s ok because you are there as a constant in their lives,” Madeline said. 

Her strengths are noticed by many

“She’s naturally talented when it comes to relationships, she really does a good job of connecting with people from zero to ninety nine,” Amy Fulkerson, sixth grade teacher and Madeline’s mom, said.  

“She’s done a wonderful job, she has a passion for working with kids. I’ll just tell you that,” Pam said. 

Even though teaching isn’t her ultimate career goal, it is still an experience she is grateful for. Collaborating with the staff and seeing the school from all different levels is something she has learned a lot from.

“I love what i’m doing right now. I honestly love it more than I ever thought I would. It hasn’t made me want to be a teacher quite, but I wake up every morning and I’m so excited to come to school,” Madeline said.

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