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Life of a substitute teacher: Just being Mr. Buker

Jaya Flanary, Cub Reporter
Originally published December 18, 2013

Students walking into Ballard’s SW104 in late November expected to see their regular teacher, Kristin Storey, whose name is on the sign outside the classroom door. Instead, the students saw a young, well-dressed substitute. His introduction may have taught them who he is, but they still don’t know who he is trying to be.

“I interviewed for seven jobs this summer and all seven of them told me I was too young and didn’t have enough experience,” Will Buker said. “That was the only feedback they gave me regarding why they didn’t hire me so it was a little frustrating.”

Even after his inkling in high school of wanting to become a history teacher, Buker still decided to go to college as a law student. After he didn’t receive the scholarship promised to him by Gonzaga, he started studying pre-law and political science at Western Washington University.

During his sophomore year, he decided to take an education class to fill a university requirement. “I still remember the class, Education 109,” he said with a smile. “I really liked how the class was designed as well as the content. I felt like it was something I was really interested in.”

Buker then took an Introduction to Mesopotamian History class which encouraged him to be more interested in history than political science. His original passion for wanting to become a teacher had not faded, so he decided to change his major to history.

After applying and being declined to Woodring, Western’s educational college, Buker took three 300 level history classes, receiving an A in every one. “I took my application and completely resubmitted it… including a kind of nasty letter about how I feel like I showed my prowess in history.” Whether it was his good grades, his addition of history credits, or his letter, he was finally accepted into Woodring.

Buker had the opportunity through Western last year to be a student teacher for four months at Ballard. He observed history teachers Alicia Hale and Jack Thompson and then eventually took over a few of their classes.

“It was really nice to be able to pull ideas from each of them and really grow individually,” Buker said. “I felt like the teachers I worked with here really gave me the ability to dive in. I didn’t feel like a student teacher, I felt like I was an everyday teacher.”

He got the privilege of creating his own lesson plans, teaching five classes a day, and watching his students grow and mature over the amount of time he spent at BHS. According to Hale, Buker works extremely hard and is always improving. “I’ve never seen a student teacher work as hard as Will. He did an amazing job,” she said. “He has a good time with students just being Mr. Buker.”

Hale also believes Buker “can connect with students on a level that is unprecedented.” He adapts to lessons quickly and creatively but also changes them to meet individual class needs.

“[Teachers] are there with you for a set amount of time every week. They’re consistent and you need them to be consistent,” Buker said. “A lot of times, especially in tougher family situations, students don’t have anything consistent in their life. So as a teacher I think it’s your job to be something consistent and give them a place they feel comfortable coming to every day.”

Buker’s teaching style worked well for students last year. “[His teaching style] is really enthusiastic, creative, and fast paced. He transitions pretty quickly from explaining to the exercise,” Hale said. “I think it’s extremely effective for certain populations.”

As for Buker, he describes his style as “student driven.” He tries to balance being hands off (by giving his students the ability to be accountable for their own work) and being very involved (by helping students when they need it.)

Buker is known not only for student teaching but for coaching Ballard’s JV baseball team last year and supporting students’ extracurricular activities. “I tried to go to sporting events…I went to one of the plays last year,” Buker said. “I really made an effort to let my students know that I cared about more than just their academics.”

Now Buker substitutes for any subject at any school possible until he gets a long term job teaching. He has been a finalist for multiple jobs he has applied to, but hasn’t received them due to lack of experience and his young age of 23, much younger than the average age of 44 for teachers in the state of Washington.

“I find it really frustrating as his mentor,” Hale said. “Of course he has experience, he’s great.” Hale is discouraged she can’t get Buker hired no matter what she writes or says in her recommendations.

“In the time I spent [at Ballard] I felt like it was a benefit to be a little younger. I had recently gone through so many things that my students were going through that it made it a lot easier for me to relate to them,” Buker said. “So I felt like my classes really trusted me more in terms of being themselves.”

There may not be a sign outside a classroom door with Will Buker’s name on it yet, but between his dedication and passion for teaching history, there will be soon.

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Life of a substitute teacher: Just being Mr. Buker