Military Mom Saves the Day as a Substitute Teacher in Her Spare Time

We are always looking for enthusiastic, engaged, and dedicated substitute teachers.

By Office of Communication and Community Relations
Spotlight
November 19, 2021

Ashley Salas has a job already. The mother of two Fairfax County Public School students works as a photographer, doing shoots primarily on evenings and weekends. And still, she was drawn to becoming a regular substitute in her children’s school district. Salas, a military spouse whose children attend Fort Belvoir Elementary School, says she found herself wondering how she could make use of her weekdays to help her community recover from the pandemic.  

FCPS substitute teacher Ashley Salas gets text messages from teachers weeks in advance about her availability to cover for them during medical appointments.
FCPS substitute teacher Ashley Salas gets text messages from teachers weeks in advance about her availability to cover for them during medical appointments.

“During the day, when the kids are at school, I was like what can I do to help?” Salas said. “My brother and his wife are both teachers, I’ve seen how the pandemic has affected teachers. They need breaks too, they need to be able to attend medical appointments for themselves and their families.” So Salas signed up to substitute teach at her children’s school in September. Since then, she’s typically in the building teaching multiple times a week -- she’s filled in for the art teacher, for individual grade classrooms, and even the librarian -- reading books to students.  

FCPS substitute teacher Ashley Salas leads a Fort Belvoir Elementary School classroom in a lesson.
FCPS substitute teacher Ashley Salas leads a Fort Belvoir Elementary School classroom in a lesson.

She knows from the volume of requests she gets that there is a significant need for people like her -- interested, motivated, patient and caring individuals who may have some spare time during the week here and there. In FCPS, substitutes can designate what days of the week they are available, what roles they are comfortable filling, as well as which schools they would like to help. “I’ve honestly started getting texts from teachers at the doctor’s office who need to schedule a follow-up exam, saying are you available three weeks from Thursday,” Salas said. “This is how significant the need is. Teachers are hesitating to schedule medical visits until they know they have someone to step in for them.” Jamey Chianetta, principal of Fort Belvoir Elementary, agrees the need is significant. “Day in and day out, our school has unfilled vacancies and we have to get creative,” Chianetta said. “Sometimes we pull other employees off assignments to lead a classroom, sometimes we split a group of students and send them into other classrooms. It has not been easy.” Some days the school is short one teacher, sometimes five or seven, Chianetta says, requiring her to reconfigure duties on a daily basis. She praises Salas for her drive to help her community.  

FCPS Substitute Ashley Salas, a military spouse and freelance photographer, began substituting at Fort Belvoir ES this year when she became aware of the significant need for substitute teachers.
FCPS Substitute Ashley Salas, a military spouse and freelance photographer, began substituting at Fort Belvoir ES this year when she became aware of the significant need for substitute teachers.

“She came in knowing not every day was going to be easy, but she doesn’t give up,” Chianetta said. Salas has taken her commitment a step further. She posts on Facebook to military spouse groups encouraging other parents who have the time to get involved, leading a mini recruitment drive of her own. "I love that I teach where both of my kids go to school -- one is in fourth grade here, one is in sixth grade," Salas said. "Honestly, gaining real relationships with other kids who go to school with my children and having them know I'm one other grown up in the building who cares about them and is there to support them means a lot to me." 

*** People interested in applying to be an FCPS substitute teacher must have 30 hours of undergraduate education coursework, provide a professional and personal reference, and clear a background check. For more information on how to become an FCPS substitute, please visit the Substitute Teaching Opportunities webpage.