Melba Marshall

Substitute helps by taking more than 100 assignments

Melba Marshall has been a regular substitute teacher with Dallas ISD for years, and it was during the pandemic that she showed just how committed she is to the district’s students, working more than 100 days both this school year and the last one.

And at 96 years of age, Marshall is not slowing down.

“I have a different way of thinking about life,” she said while substituting at Bayles Elementary School on the last day of class. “I don’t think it’s good for you to stop as long as you can keep going. I set no limitations because of my age. As long as you’re living, you should be contributing and that’s what keeps me going every day.”

Substitutes are required to work a minimum of five assignments per month to remain active, and the district did see a decline in available subs during the 2020-2021 school year. While there has been a 21% increase this year in the substitute working pool, few come even close to matching Marshall’s workload.

“Our substitute teachers have always made a big difference in making sure that students have someone in the classroom who can guide them through the learning process,” said Chief of Human Capital Management Robert Abel. “The past few months, we have needed all hands on deck to make sure students are successful. Substitute teachers like Melba Marshall have stepped up for the students of Dallas ISD, and we are grateful they are part of our team.”

Marshall saw the need and enjoys being around children to see them grow as they learn, she said.

“I like the children and like to see them learn,” Marshall said. “It’s interesting to me to see how they connect with iPads and computers, and I’m learning from them. I have to learn from them because these things are not of my generation.’’

Marshall was born in Texas but moved to Chicago as a young woman. She moved back to Dallas in the 1960s and worked in the U.S. Postal Service until the early 1990s when she retired. Around that time, her husband passed away, and Marshall started subbing sporadically at first and more regularly the past six years or so.

Marshall attended what was then the Chicago Teachers College and DePaul University, but while she never became a teacher, she does enjoy the give and take of learning that takes place when working with students and other teachers.

“I like to go from day to day [as a substitute],” she said. “I don’t like to stay in one school all the time because I like to be around different children. When I get stuck, I can’t think. I like to see new people and see the different ways children act and learn. I like learning from them and learning from the teachers. It’s hard for me and my generation to learn a new way of doing things, so it’s interesting to see it.”

In addition to learning from the children, Marshall also enjoys interacting with the teachers she encounters. In all the schools she has been, teachers have been “100% helpful whenever I ask for help. Once I get the lesson plan and the attendance sheet, that makes my day,” she said.

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