75-year-old sub continues teaching amid pandemic

Local News

WHITE HALL, Ark. — Finding a substitute teacher can be a difficult task but filling a teacher’s absence during a pandemic is a quest.

Despite the risk of COVID-19, and her age, one substitute teacher in White Hall continues to show up and do what she loves.

At 75 years young, Mary Bowerman is still hard at work.

“(It’s) a work of love, yes definitely,” said Mary Bowerman.

Bowerman has been a substitute teacher for the past 14 years. She spent the last four years working in the White Hall School District.

She said while it’s not always an easy job, it’s a rewarding one.

“Being on my feet all day isn’t so much fun,” laughed Bowerman. “My favorite part is when the light goes on in a student’s eyes. that they comprehend something that they didn’t before. I really like that.”

In a typical school year, she’ll sub seven to eight days a month, Since the pandemic, she’s practically full-time.

“I have filled in for several teachers who have either had Covid or had a family member with COVID, so it’s been really busy this year,” said Bowerman.

It has been the case for substitute teachers across the state.

“What happens is if a teacher gets quarantined or a teacher’s family gets quarantined, especially a small child they have to stay home with, then they are out for 14 days,” explained Les Davis, Principal of White Hall Middle School.  “So if you get a sub they are here for 14 days and that takes that sub out of the pool and normal things happen like they do all the time, then there is no one to fill those spots.”

Bowerman is well aware her age and pre-existing health conditions put her at high-risk for the virus. Yet, still, she teaches.

“I really waffled back and forth for a long time, but I really love these teachers. I know how dedicated they are and how dedicated they are to the students and I finally decided I just didn’t want to let them down,” said Bowerman.

On Tuesday, she received her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Now it is back to the classroom and back to work, for as long as she’s able.

“Until my my body gives out!” laughed Bowerman.  

Principal Davis said all six schools in the White Hall School District share substitute teachers, which makes filling vacancies even more difficult.

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