When others ask what I do at Harrisburg Academy, it usually requires an explanation of the title “building substitute.”  It’s a unique position that is only available at an independent school, such as the Academy.  Being new to Pennsylvania and new to a private school setting, this job has been very interesting and educational for me.

For the first two months of the year, I assisted in 1st grade before transitioning to acting as substitute for all divisions, as was needed.

One day, I am in a Junior Kindergarten class playing shape bingo games and the next day, I am in a Middle School math class going over pre-algebra homework.  It’s always fun to make sibling connections as I move between divisions.  It was quite cute when a MS school student asks me, “Do you know my little brother/sister?” and their eyes twinkle when I respond that I do.

After being an elementary school teacher in Texas for 7 years and being around only younger students, it was certainly different for me to interact with the older students. Many of the faculty and staff assured me that the Middle and Upper School students are good students and kids, and that I shouldn’t have much trouble – and I am happy to report that has truly been the case!

The small class settings at the Academy definitely make things more comfortable, both for the students and the teachers.  I am amazed by the intelligence and talent, independence, and responsibility that our students show.  And I continue to be amazed by the strong sense of community in the building.  The older students adore the little ones and the younger ones in turn look up to them as role models.  It’s truly mesmerizing to see the interactions and the joint activities involving all students from preschool through 12th grade.

In November, my in-laws were visiting from South Korea and had the opportunity to attend the Academy musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”  Of course, they were utterly entertained and pleased with the show.  But mostly, they were amazed by the collaboration between the divisions, from Lower through Upper School.  In Korea, you do not see such interaction between groups with such a wide age difference.

The Academy is surely a place of learning and a warm, safe community for all ages.  I am grateful to be part of it.

*Maria Lee was employed as the building substitute at the time this post was written.