There are all kinds of paths to becoming a teacher, but Eddie Brown may have taken the most unusual.
Brown, a retiree with nearly 20 years of law enforcement experience and 30 years in the military, was walking one day with a few fellow retirees. The group gets into the habit of crossing the West Edgewood Trail, and along the way they pass Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
Brown calls himself a “person of faith” and says he spends a lot of time in prayer. At the time, he was thinking about how he could give back to his community.
As Brown and his friends drove past the school, they saw students coming out en masse. This must be a fire drill, he thought.
“I approached a staff member and said, ‘Hey, are you still looking for replacement teachers? And they said, ‘Well, sure,'” Brown said.
“And I said, ‘Well, I’ll do it. I’m going to come back and I’m going to be a substitute here at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, right here in Jefferson City, Missouri. “”
Brown added: “I’ve always had a passion for children and wanted to impress them because honestly children are our future.”
Brown continued on that day, but later returned.
TJMS principal Emily Vallandingham, who had no idea of the interaction that had occurred between Brown and her staff that day, was outside on bus service during the dismissal about a week later . She received a call on the radio that someone was there to talk to her.
Vallandingham met Brown, who told him he wanted to become a substitute teacher. She brought him into her office and explained the paperwork and the process he would have to go through. Those wishing to become substitute teachers must go through a certification process, provide records of their training, and submit to fingerprinting and background checks.
A little later, Brown emailed Vallandingham. He had filled out his paperwork and was ready to substitute.
“I had intended to email him in the morning and tell him that we were looking forward to him taking sub jobs at TJMS,” she said.
But the next morning, Brown was there. He didn’t know how to work on the website where he could accept substitute teaching positions, so he introduced himself.
“I came back and said, ‘Hey, I’m here, I’m ready to start.’ I didn’t know how it worked,” he said with a laugh. “I just said, basically, ‘Let me coach, I’m ready to play.'”
A secretary showed him how to work the website for the future, but the school had vacancies that day, so they put him to work.
Brown has replaced TJMS two to three days a week since then.
“He really took all the staff and the student body under his wing. He got to know the students very quickly. He got to know the staff very quickly,” Vallandingham said. “He always stops and shakes everyone’s hand, and he, every time I see him, shakes my hand and he always asks me how my day is going.”
Brown sees it as a chance to make a difference.
“It’s an opportunity for me to mark a young life and try to help children,” he said.
“He too, in addition to replacing, he will go – whenever he has a break – he will go and ask the teachers if they need a break,” Vallandingham said. “Do you need to run to the bathroom? Do you need anything? And so he’s just been a really big positive force in our building.”
He’s happy to substitute where needed, but said he wouldn’t substitute anywhere else. He wants to replace a place where the students know him and know how his class works. He also said he enjoyed being part of the Vallandingham squad.
Vallandingham said he brings joy to school.
“He also has a lot of life experiences, having been in the military and having been a police officer, and so he has some great stories to tell and kind of has a lot of wisdom that he passes on to staff and students. here,” she said.
Brown said he spent time in the National Guard and deployed to what was then Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Panama before retiring in 2016, having achieved the rank of lieutenant. col.
Brown believes young people can learn a lot from those who have served.
“A lot of my time in the military and also in law enforcement was spent on structure and the ability to deal with difficult tasks and the ability to work step by step,” he said. -he declares.
“I think veterans of all skill sets have the tools to be able to sit down and certainly, number one, befriend a kid, and number two, be able to teach them things that you might not find not in a textbook, or they may be able to teach them and give them a first-hand account of something they find in a textbook.”
Brown put his three decades of military service to good use by sharing some life lessons with students Thursday at the TJMS Veterans Day Assembly.
Brown’s contributions to the school made it easier for teachers, Vallandingham said.
Although there is not a significant need for substitute teachers every day, the school often asks teachers to use their scheduled time to cover classes that do not have a substitute teacher.
“It adds an extra responsibility to a teacher’s day whenever he doesn’t get what would be his typical plan time because he’s covering another class, and so having someone like Mr Brown, when it comes up, it basically alleviates all of those teachers who would have to give up their planning time to cover a class to make sure the students are getting an education. They get that planning time back,” Vallandingham said.
Teachers are free to use this time to plan lessons, grade, attend meetings, or review student data.
For his part, Brown is happy to oblige.
“I love children and I help teachers. That’s why I do it,” he said.
Some of his friends are surprised to learn that he is now a substitute teacher.
His response: “Every child needs to be loved. Every child needs to be loved and to be told that we as adults care about them.”
“When I was so young, I wanted attention, I wanted people to pay attention to me,” Brown said. “And I have young people who come and every time they see me they want to hug me. When a child is in the hardest time, they need to know they are loved.”