English teachers Michael Dickel and Melissa Kaplan had a baby, Alexander James Dickel, on Jan. 27 and have both been on leave since. “Mr. Dickel and I are taking some time off to adjust to parenthood and to take care of this most perfect little person. We are in awe of him and totally in love,” Kaplan said.
English teacher Daniel Pecoraro has also been on paternity leave. Pecoraro and Dickel are expected to return today and Kaplan is returning mid-May. Dickel does plan to take a few weeks off at the end of the year as well.
Two long-term substitutes have been hired, for Kaplan and Dickel. Pecoraro has a few different substitutes over his period of absence rather than one for the entire time. When a long-term substitute is required, a job listing is published and people with minimum requirements, like a college degree, apply. Applicants are then selected to be interviewed by the teacher they will be substituting for as well as the resource teacher of the department and sometimes an administrator. References for applicants are also checked, which can include other teachers who have had them as a substitute.
Dickel is English resource teacher, so this position has been temporarily filled by English teacher Nicholas Hitchens, who took paternity leave himself last year. “I’ve been orienting substitutes to the building, giving them plans, keys, attendance rosters, clarifying policies for them, etc.,” Hitchens said.
In addition to helping substitutes adjust to this school, Hitchens has been representing the English department in meetings, organizing his own meetings, and performing administrative work related to the department such as book ordering and dealing with computer issues.
Hitchens, having taken on resource teacher responsibilities, has been much more busy than usual. “This role has certainly taken a lot of time away from me as a teacher. I have not had as much time with students during lunch or after school. During class, things are mostly the same but I will say my mind is a bit scattered with all the extra things going on. I am still able to get things copied, etc. but I do stay later than usual (and arrive earlier than usual),” he said.
Students were surprised to come to school on the first day of a new semester to find substitutes. Senior Helen Feng has Dickel’s substitute for AP English Literature and Composition class and had Dickel last semester. She compared their teaching styles. “The substitute has less flexibility and seems to be teaching more based off of reading from a paper or whatever the other teachers tell her to do. Of course that’s her job, but sometimes if we have a question she can’t give us a direct answer because she has to confirm with other teachers and Mr. Dickel, which is understandable. However, it is sometimes a bit inconvenient,” Feng said.
Hitchens is confident in the long-term substitutes. “I’d say students are in very good hands,” he said.