By Brooke Rogers

WYLIE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Substitute teaching might not be the typical holiday job for a college student, but it is this year in Wylie ISD.

“One day when I was studying I was like, ‘I’m tired of studying, so I’ll apply to be a sub today,’ and fortunately it worked out.,” said substitute teacher Lauren Vasquez.

Vasquez graduated this year from Wylie East High School.

Now a student at the University of Dallas, she’s also the daughter of an elementary school principal.

“Coming back here just felt natural to me, because I grew up here, and I spent every day here,” she said.

Lauren Vasquez – Wylie ISD substitute teacher (CBS 11)

She answered the call at a dire time for the district, with so many teachers virtual or quarantined.

“We’ve been at about 60% fill rates, which means we have 40% of our positions unfilled on any given day,” said Wylie ISD Substitute Coordinator Ashely Hopson.

The reaction has been overwhelming. Since they launched in mid-November, they’ve hired 23 substitute teachers and have 40 more in the hiring process.

“The subs apply online,” said Hopson. “We go through a phone interview. I ask them why they’d like to sub in Wylie, make sure they’re willing to be flexible with where they’re put in the classroom and on the campus.”

Then they undergo a background check, Zoom orientation, and eight hours of online training – and they’re in the classroom, implementing the primary teacher’s lesson plan.

“The first day, I was very nervous. You can probably ask the kids that I sub,” said Vasquez. “I talked very fast, and I probably didn’t explain things very well, but as I’ve done it more I’ve grown more confident, especially with the younger kids.”

Hopson said, to the newly-minted subs, it’s more than a seasonal gig.

“The coolest thing I’ve heard, and I’ve heard it time and time again, is that these kids have just loved growing up in Wylie, and they just feel so blessed and privileged to have gotten to grow up in this district, and they keep saying that they just want to give back to the district.”

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