Teacher and Substitute Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11, and LAUSD Daily is celebrating the classroom heroes who work every day to educate, lead, mentor and inspire the students of L.A. Unified. Each day this week, we are profiling a teacher or substitute teacher selected by their Local District administrators as an example of the highly skilled and dedicated professionals who make up our teaching corps. Today, we wrap up our series with Benito Sulit, a product of L.A. Unified who works as a substitute teacher.
At Wisdom Elementary School in South Los Angeles, Principal Connie Brandstetter thinks of Benito Sulit not as simply a substitute teacher, but as part of the school family.
“He is the go-to family member whenever anyone needs something done at the highest quality,” she said.
Sulit and thousands of other substitute teachers across L.A. Unified play a vital role in student success, ensuring that teaching and learning continues when a permanent teacher is absent.
“When I go to a classroom, I expect the teacher has certain rules and I keep those intact,” Sulit said. “I follow what needs to be done, and keep up their routine as much as possible.”
Sulit teaches five days a week, mostly at Wisdom and a couple of other neighborhood elementary schools. He admits that students sometimes test the rules, like asking for too-frequent breaks to visit the restroom or sharpen a pencil. When that occurs, other students usually let him know.
“They’re honest,” he said. “I like that.”
Sulit also engages with the kids who ask about his life story and relate it to theirs. Like an uncle or older brother, he shares his experience of growing up in the San Fernando Valley, attending L.A. Unified schools and graduating five years ago from Cal State Dominguez Hills.
“I talk with them about developing perseverance, discipline and following the rules,” he said. “The more you break them, the harder it will be for you in the future.”
He also advises students to treat class as if they are training for life. If they don’t know multiplication, he tells them, how will they be able to track their paychecks?
“I just relate to them, and at the same time – a lot of times – they teach you, too.”
He realized that teaching was his true calling when he was just a semester shy of graduating with a finance degree. While tutoring in an after-school program, a friend told him to think about joining the profession because of an educator shortage. After graduating from college, he seized opportunities that led him back to L.A. Unified.
Now in his third year as a substitute, Sulit plans to continue working toward his teaching credential. At Wisdom Elementary, Principal Brandstatter finds that as welcome news.
“All the students here love him, and cheer when they see he will serve as teacher in their classroom,” she said.
Sulit is thankful for earning their trust. When students greet him, calling him by name or waving across campus, he said “is a reward, like priceless.” For him, such feelings confirm no better rewards exist than teaching.
He said, “It’s a blessed job.”