Finding joy in being a substitute teacher

Dallas ISD substitute teacher Carolyn Galvan loves being a substitute teacher, and students love her being there. Students come up to her and give her a fist bump or a hug, and she knows them by their first name. Team members say she lights up a room when she enters. 

Galvan says many of her students treat her like family, as she offers compassion and understanding in the classroom, no matter what kind of day the student is having. She feels appreciated at Henry W. Longfellow Career Exploration Academy, which is how the National Education Association hopes that all substitute teachers feel. 

As part of American Education Week, the NEA established National Subsitute Teachers Day on Friday, Nov. 17, to highlight the contributions of substitute teachers and to set aside time for appreciation of the vital role they play in the maintenance and continuity of daily education. 

Amber Bonasso, a teacher at Longfellow Academy, where Galvan is often a substitute teacher, says Galvan is not only celebrated by the students when they hear she is going to be subbing in for their class, but is such a source of encouragement to the teachers.  

“She is wonderful and can always be counted on,” Bonasso said. “She communicates with the teacher really well and makes the students feel cared for. We love Ms. Galvan at Longfellow!” 

Galvan has a long history teaching for the district. She began her journey with the district in 1990 as an eighth-grade English and Reading Language Arts teacher at Dallas Environmental Science Academy. She then became an instructional coach for the reading department, traveling to several campuses—from Oak Cliff to North Dallas, she said. After changes in the department, she went back to teaching at Thomas J. Rusk Middle School as an English Language Arts teacher and as a campus instructional coach. 

Due to personal illness, Galvan said she had to slow down and temporarily leave teaching until a friend suggested she become a substitute teacher. After being out for a few months, she ventured back into the classroom. Galvan says it was her love of teaching that brought her back into the classroom in this role. 

“I love being with students, and I had missed them,” Galvan said. “I’m always learning from them, and I think they keep me young.”

With her years of experience, Galvan has tips to share with fellow substitute teachers as well as others who are considering going into this field. According to Galvan, being prepared for the unexpected is key. She said she has been very fortunate to substitute in classes where teachers leave very detailed notes, but that last minute emergencies can happen where the teacher might not always have the ability to leave the lesson plans. Something unexpected could also mean a fire drill–so knowing the school’s safety plan is a good idea, she said.. 

If it’s your first day substituting at a new school, she recommends coming in early to read the classroom teacher’s notes. The teachers will also let the substitute know if there are students who have special needs. Galvan also recommends taking a look at the bell schedule and seeing what the day looks like, as well as introducing yourself to the teachers that are nearby, who are almost always willing to help if need be.

Her most memorable moments as a substitute teacher are the little things, Galvan said. For example, a few weeks ago, a student knitted a scarf for her in purple. The student had remembered Galvan mentioning that purple was her favorite color.  Another student gave her a card that read “to the best sub.” These are the moments that she treasures the most. 

Some of her former students have become Dallas ISD teachers, and Galvan says she is always happy when they come up to her and remember her and share with her what they cherished about the times when she was their teacher. 

“That’s what keeps me going—knowing that I had a role in where they are. I love being part of their lives,” Galvan said. 

More than anything, Galvan wishes for her students to never give up in the classroom or in life. 

“I want them to be successful, to be happy, to be passionate and to be able to overcome any obstacles and to keep on trying,” she said. “Even through the stumbling blocks and obstacles, I want to motivate them to keep on going.”

A lifetime dedicated to uplifting students

A familiar and friendly face for students and community members at Francisco “Pancho” Medrano Junior High School is Carlos Rodriguez, an education support professional, who has worked for the district for over three decades. In fact his journey as a Dallas ISD team member began when he was a teenager. 

In recognition of all they do to support learning, team members like Rodriguez, can be celebrated on Nov. 15—Education Support Professionals Day. The day was first celebrated in 1987 by the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly to honor the contributions of all school support staff. To learn more, click here

Rodriguez began his journey as an education support professional in the district in 1992, a year after graduating from North Dallas High School, when he was offered a job at Ignacio Zaragoza Elementary School. 

Rodriguez, who is currently working in the English as a Second Language Department at Medrano, has shared his talents in the different roles he’s played in the district—from building a dance program as a ballet folklorico instructor to strengthening newcomer students’ language skills. Through the diverse range of work that Rodriguez has done, he has appreciated every moment and experience and says he is very passionate about what he does. 

“I like for every student to take something in return for the time and effort they put into the class,” Rodriguez said. “I want students to have something  to look forward to every day, and that they feel good about what they accomplished, whether it’s a small step or a big victory.” 

Rodriguez was at Zaragoza for a few years before he became the ballet folklorico instructor at North Dallas, a position he held for approximately eight years. 

After his time at North Dallas, Rodriguez was offered a job at W.T. White High School, where he had the opportunity to not only teach dance but also offer academic support to students, primarily in science. After spending approximately five years at White, Rodriguez moved to Medrano, located in the same neighborhood in Northwest Dallas where he grew up.

At Medrano, where Rodriguez has been since 2008, he has provided educational support to students who receive special services and currently offers support to students who speak languages other than English. Rodriguez, who is originally from Monterrey, Mexico, was once an ESL student and says he understands the  frustrations and challenges that students face. 

He says one of the greatest satisfactions of his job is seeing the growth of his students from the beginning of the school year to the end, as he sees his students grow into their confidence and language skills and are able to better advocate for themselves. 

In the trajectory of his career, Rodriguez has seen his students not only become fluent and confident speakers, but become business owners, start their own dance companies– several of which exist in the Dallas area—and start their own careers and families. Rodriguez says he’s honored to have been a part of their journey. 

“Many of my students have evolved and many of them are entrepreneurs, creating their own paths as community leaders,” Rodriguez said. “You don’t realize how much of an impact you can make in our youths’ lives, until they come back and thank you for being there for them. There is no greater reward than that.”

Call for teachers to become librarians

In order to help fill librarian positions, Dallas ISD is growing their own by encouraging teachers who are interested in pursuing this field to attend upcoming information sessions. These efforts, led by the Library and Media Services Department, are part of the district’s teacher-to-librarian cohort for the fall of 2023. 

In these sessions, several universities—including Sam Houston State University, Texas Woman’s University, and University of North Texas—that have school librarian programs will present information about the different programs offered. 

The minimum requirements to be a part of the teacher-to-librarian cohort include two years of classroom teaching experience and a valid K-12 teaching certificate. 

The information sessions will take place 5-6 p.m. on the following dates: 

  • Nov. 14 
  • Nov. 15
  • Nov. 29

The meetings will take place virtually and can be accessed by clicking on the link in the flyer. For more information, contact Tabatha Sustaita-Robb at



AC interns can get money back

Alternative Certification interns could be eligible for reimbursement of their program fees if currently enrolled in an Educator Preparation Program.                                                

The Alternative Certification reimbursement incentive is designed to support teachers during the 2023-2024 school year, and those who are eligible could be reimbursed up to $4,000 contingent on fund availability and approval by Human Capital Management. This reimbursement does not apply to the district’s Alternative Certification program interns, whose tuition and fees have been waived. The deadline to submit for reimbursement is May 31, 2024.

To be eligible for the reimbursement:

  • You must be a teacher during the 2023-2024 school year.
  • Your intern or probationary certificate must be posted on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website no earlier than January 2023.
  • You must submit an official statement from your Alternative Certification program reflecting fees incurred and paid during the 2023-2024 school year. 

Please click here for instructions on how to submit your official statement and click here to sign up for an Alternative Certification Reimbursement information session.

For additional questions or concerns contact (972) 925-4260 or 


Could you be Dallas’ next poet laureate?

The search for Dallas’ new poet laureate is underway, and one of Dallas ISD’s talented wordsmiths could be chosen. You just need to apply. 

Every two years, Dallas chooses a poet laureate to help encourage greater literacy awareness, according to the Dallas Public Library’s website. The current poet laureate, Joaquin Zihuatanejo, is a product of Dallas ISD, having graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. This next poet laureate will hold the post starting in April 2024 through March 2026.

The Dallas Public Library, the City of Dallas’ Office of Arts and Culture, and Deep Vellum Bookstore & Publishing Company began the program in 2022, which means this is only the second time the search for a poet laureate for the city takes place. 

The Dallas Public Library’s website describes the poet laureate role as one of a liaison, advocate, and leader who inspires the diverse residents of Dallas to read, write, perform and appreciate the written and spoken word. Part of the poet laureate’s duties includes serving as an ambassador by presenting original poems at community events and ceremonies throughout the city of Dallas. The chosen poet will also hold artist-in-residence office hours at the Erik Jonsson Central Library located in downtown Dallas.

Some of the perks of being the poet laureate is receiving an honorarium of $20,000 during the two-year term, as well as a $2,000 advance with Deep Vellum to publish a full-length collection of original poetry. If you’d like to learn more and apply, visit

Tips and resources for America Recycles Day

As Dallas celebrates America Recycles Day, Nov. 15, the district continues to increase its recycling efforts in schools and other facilities. In the last five years alone, recycling in the district has increased from 12 percent to over 17 percent, according to Bryant Shaw, manager of the Energy and Sustainability Department. Since 2017, the district has also had a 52% decrease in trash going to the landfill. 

In 2015, Dallas ISD replaced the polystyrene trays with compostable plates in the cafeterias, and Shaw said the district hopes to add compostable trash bags and utensils by 2027. 

Dallas ISD is making progress to match national recycling numbers, which, according ot the Environmental Protection Agency, has increased 32 percent from 7 percent in 1960.

Many schools throughout the district get their students engaged by participating in learning activities and clubs that promote recycling. 

“Some schools have a second generation of families participating—the parents participated in recycling when they were in school and taught their children about recycling. Now their kids are practicing this in the schools,” Shaw said. 

If you’re interested in starting a recycling program at your school, you can find that information at the district’s Energy and Sustainability Department page here. It also includes online training, frequently asked questions, a recycling checklist, among other resources. 

The EPA also offers free online tools for schools and parents such as packing a waste free lunch to science fair activities centered around recycling, just to name a few. You can access these resources here

Whether at schools or at home, we can all do our part to protect the environment and recycle. If you need a recycling roll cart or need one replaced, you can request one via the City of Dallas’ Department of Sanitation Services, by accessing their page here

According to the EPA, some of the things we can do at home include: learning to compost at home; having a yard sale to find homes for clothes, toys, appliances, and books that you no longer need; using old newspapers to wrap fragile materials when moving; and buying reusable mops, rags and sponges when cleaning. 

To learn more about recycling, the EPA has extensive tools online at

Supporting mental health one student at a time

In the more than 20 years Yatta Johnson—a licensed mental health clinician—has worked as a school psychologist, she has played many roles but perhaps none more crucial as the one she has now at Emmett J. Conrad High School. Every day, she connects with students, guides them through difficult times and helps them better understand themselves and others.

Johnson is one of several school psychologists in Dallas ISD, and thousands throughout the country, whose work is celebrated and highlighted through Nov. 10 during National School Psychology Week.

“I’m a non-traditional school psychologist because my degree is in mental health counseling psychology and clinical psychology,” said Johnson, who is originally from Dallas and returned 23 years ago after obtaining her degrees to work in a school setting.

She is proud to be part of Dallas ISD’s Mental Health Services because the district takes an innovative approach to student mental health and is at the forefront of providing services, she said. More traditional school psychologist roles entail evaluating students for special education services or learning disabilities, serving in committees, and sitting in on ARD meetings.

“You might do a little counseling, but you don’t really get to interact with the general student population,” she said. “At Conrad, I get to work with students on anxiety, depression, help offer support, conduct suicide risk assessment, screen for potential risk of violence, assist with identifying student interventions and best ways to help stabilize students in crisis. I also provide resources to parents and assist with safety plans. I focus on helping students make good choices.”

As a school-based clinician first at H. Grady Spruce High School and now at Conrad, Johnson said she works as part of a team with the academic counselor and other team members to make sure students have the tools necessary to be successful. In her second year at Conrad, she also gets referrals from students she has been able to help.

“The need is great,” she said. “We have made mental health services very accessible. Parents can get on the website and indicate a need. Students can talk to a teacher or the school counselor, who then reaches out to me, or students themselves will come to me once they know who I am.”

If the student is under 18, parents are contacted before services are provided, and Johnson works on individual plans to address the issue at school and at home. While she does not provide long-term services, she can refer students and families to one of the district’s 13 Youth and Family Centers or community partners for additional support.

“The benefit of me being in the school all the time is that I can intervene if a student is having a panic attack or help de-escalate a problem,” she said.

She knows that she is making a difference when students tell her that the breathing exercises she taught them to deal with stress or anger are working or when they seek her out to share exciting news or just to talk.

“That’s rewarding,” she said. “I know I have helped my students by giving them the skills to be the best version of themselves, to help them make better choices, and to graduate college, career, and life ready!”


Reading is the foundation for success

Reading is fundamental is more than a slogan to Marissa Tavallaee, principal at Jesús Moroles Expressive Arts Vanguard. She has made literacy and reading—among students and team members—a central part of the school’s identity.

Not only do teachers in third through eighth grade incorporate novel studies into their TEKS-based lessons to encourage reading and schedule reading time, but Tavallaee sets aside between $7,000 and $8,000 of her school budget to buy each student a grade-appropriate book to take home.

“It’s a unifying feeling because no matter where you come from, you get to take a book home for yourself,” she said and pointed out that studies show children who have their own books at home read at higher levels. “The more kids read, the better off they are in every subject and better at communicating in general.”

She said teachers have embraced the novel studies and incorporate 15-20 minutes a week for independent reading time to the weekly learning schedule so students can read for pleasure, often in the school’s courtyard when the weather is nice. To make their reading time more fun, they are routinely joined by the school’s pet bearded dragon.

In her years as a teacher, assistant principal and principal, Tavallaee has confirmed that reading helps students develop critical thinking skills and helps them understand other people’s perceptions.

“It makes them well-rounded individuals and prepares them to face any challenges they may encounter,” she said.

In addition to reading, Tavallaee also has a passion for leading and working with teachers to help them help students succeed. She found her passion in pushing and supporting students and teachers as an AP chemistry teacher before coming to Dallas ISD. She then joined the district as an assistant principal at Raúl Quintanilla Sr. Middle School before becoming principal at Moroles.

“I think it’s a balance of being lovingly strict and warm and fuzzy while holding them to high expectations,” she said. “I want kids to be pushed and want them to be ready for the future.”

Because of the principal’s support of literacy, the school’s team members are also big into reading, so much so that Tavallaee started a book club for employees last year. With about 10 participating, it was so successful that they continued it this school year. Each person gets to pick a book to read, and the group meets monthly in the library to discuss them.

The book club, along with other activities, have created a sense of camaraderie and make team members excited to come to work, Tavallaee said. Seeing adults excited about reading also shows students that it’s an important activity.

“A mentor told me once, ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to lead,’” she said. “It’s true. If you can’t read, you can’t do anything else. Reading in the book club has helped me be a better leader.”

The emphasis on reading throughout the school has paid off in many ways. Results for reading at the tested grade levels surpass those of the district and other schools in the vertical team at the approaches, meets and masters levels.

“We have seen a major decrease in bullying,” she said. “I think it has to do with students being more entertained by books than by social media. If you go to the cafeteria, you can see students reading during lunch. For them, going to the library is a big deal.”

In addition to fewer discipline issues, the school has seen an improvement in student surveys, especially in the areas of trust and enjoyment—70% of students have said they have someone on campus they can trust and feel comfortable to go to, Tavallaee said.

“My passion and my desire to want to help come through,” she said. “I want to make an impact on students and teachers and create an environment where people thrive, enjoy coming to work, and want to come to school.”


Call for Core 4 central nominations

Dallas ISD team members deserve to be praised for their Core 4 spirit as they demonstrate what being focused, flexible, fast and friendly means in their everyday interactions. If your central administration department has been doing regular recognitions, please nominate those you celebrated for a central-wide recognition by completing this form

A committee will look at the nominations and choose a central administration champion for the quarter for each of the four tenets. We’ll be asking for nominations again in a few months. Those who are recognized will receive a bag with Core 4 items and the opportunity to park in the Core 4 Champions spot at the Linus D. Wright Dallas ISD Administration Building. 

Recognizing team members in your department is part of the Core 4 experience.

Delivering unwavering support with a Core 4 mindset

For Brandi Epps, a lead instructional specialist, creating student opportunities means being fast, focused, flexible, and friendly every day. She and her team of five specialists serve kindergarten through second-grade classrooms in the South Oak Cliff area, and together, they are making a lasting impact on teachers and students alike.

Being an instructional specialist means providing teachers with the tools they need to increase their classroom efficacy, whether that is through coaching, lesson modeling, or curriculum implementation. Since January 2023, it has also meant bringing additional small group instruction to students.

Epps said her team’s responsibilities were expanded in response to district goals to help second-grade students who “were falling significantly behind their peers” according to their MAP data. They were able to work with those students from January through the end of the 2022-2023 school year, and Epps said the results spoke for themselves.

“We could see just how integral our roles were when it came to the students’ increased success,” Epps said. “Our roles have now been reimagined to include small group support to Tier 2 students as the district intends to keep moving the needle with these students. I’m glad I get to have a direct hand in the success of our second-grade students in addition to supporting our teachers.” 

Epps’ passion for making memorable moments and transforming students’ lives started early, as she grew up watching her grandmother teach in Dallas ISD for over 30 years. Epps went on to receive her degree in education and then to serve as a teacher and an instructional coach in other districts before returning home to Dallas. 

Her dedication to the district’s mission of educating all students for success as well as her commitment to delivering unwavering Core 4 customer service have been applauded by district leaders, including Shanieka Christmas-McDonald, principal at H.I. Holland Elementary School at Lisbon. 

“Ms. Epps exemplifies the Core 4 tenets every day at Holland,” Christmas-McDonald said. “She is always focused on improving the quality of instruction for our students. Her turnaround time for requests and supporting areas of opportunity is 24 hours or less. Ms. Epps differentiates her approach based on the request and need of each individual teacher, and she provides rationale for all feedback and the impact it will have for the scholar and the teacher. She is an effective communicator who is always friendly and professional in her delivery. Ms. Epps is a pleasure to work with and is truly positively impacting the educational experience for our students and teachers at Holland.”