From the library to the soccer field, the classroom to after-school clubs, Substitute Teacher Hall of Fame inductee Michael Packard has dedicated much of his professional life to an important mission: sharing knowledge with students.
That’s what led him to study education in college, to become the director of several local public libraries (where he focused on developing children’s programming), and, most recently, a substitute teacher, coach, and club leader at The Renaissance Academy in Pennsylvania.
“I love helping develop young people into helpful, kind, contributing citizens,” Packard says. “That’s really the goal — being the model for that as best as possible.”
According to his colleagues at the Renaissance Academy, Packard has gone above and beyond to be an exemplary role model for his students.
“Mr. Packard has built great relationships with everyone in our building,” says Melissa Weidman, a teacher at The Renaissance Academy. “The students look up to and respect him. He knows everyone’s name and takes the time to meet individuals’ needs and helps them feel heard.
“He works so well with my students in the emotional support classroom and they like him so much they ask for him to sub for the class even when I do not have to be out.”
Journey to Education
Michael recalls that one of his close relatives played a major role in his decision to become an educator.
“My aunt Mary Helen was a teacher when I was growing up,” Michael says. “She watched us throughout my childhood, and she always felt that I had a similar teaching bug. I think that she saw it in me and inspired me to go that route.”
After earning a degree in elementary education, Michael began his career working in local public libraries. He specialized in developing children’s programming, including curating reading collections for younger students.
With a growing family, however, Michael decided to return to his roots in classroom teaching. That’s when he started as a substitute teacher with The Renaissance Academy.
He attributes his success in the classroom to a philosophy driven by respect — while students have a tendency to slack off when their regular teacher is absent, a substitute can maintain a productive learning environment with the right approach.
“I know that a lot of students, when they hear the word substitute, it flips a switch in their mind,” Michael says. “It’s like an innate, subconscious reaction to the fact that there’s a substitute, But the bottom line is, I go in there and everybody gets my respect from the beginning. They get that because it’s genuine and real, and I genuinely care for their success.
“I share that with them and make sure that it’s obvious that I care very much about what’s happening and try and be vocal about it as much as possible. That seems to be the recipe for success: bringing respect and showing that overtly, as well as consciously making an effort to make sure you’re connecting with every single student regardless of where they’re coming from.”
Michael’s impact at The Renaissance Academy extends far beyond the classroom. He’s also a coach on the soccer team and helps lead several after-school clubs including Destination Imagination, a worldwide organization that utilizes STEM principles in a variety of competitions.
“Michael steps up and helps out with after-school activities like coaching and game clubs and STEM clubs. He gives so much to the community and students,” says fellow Renaissance Academy teacher Melissa Weidman.
Michael’s work in after-school clubs, like his contributions in the classroom, embody what he’s long sought to accomplish as an educator.
“Being able to share knowledge and help others is the underlying motivation — wanting to help and wanting to be able to have a positive impact,” Michael says.
About Swing Education
Founded in 2015, Swing Education addresses the nationwide substitute teacher shortage by helping schools connect with qualified educators via an easy-to-use, web-based marketplace. The company’s diverse pool of substitute teachers consists of both veteran educators and those who are entering into the education community through Swing Education. To date, the company has helped more than 1,500 school partners fill 150,000-plus teacher absences. To learn more about Swing Education, visit our website.