Career Advice

Interview with Leave Replacement Teacher Mrs. Janet D’Innocenzio

Choosing a career in education can be an intimidating step for some. There are a lot of options to choose from in the education industry, including a Leave Replacement Teaching. A Leave Replacement Teacher steps in when the primary teacher is to go on leave. A Leave Replacement Teacher will cover the classroom the entire time that the primary teacher is away. It is a worthwhile endeavor that prepares students to become productive members of society, as well as providing a safe learning environment. To make an informed decision about your career path, it can be helpful to hear about current teachers' perspectives. We had the opportunity to sit down and chat with current Leave Replacement Teacher Janet D’Innocenzio. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few questions describing a day in the life of a Leave Replacement Teacher

Q. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

A. I am an NJ teacher with 38 years of teaching experience: 35 in Public Schools and 3 in Parochial Schools.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?

A. I especially enjoyed sharing my own love for languages with my students. Traveling abroad with my students during my career was a highlight. It is exhilarating to watch one’s students experience a new culture! 

Q. What inspired you to become a teacher?

A. I was inspired to pursue teaching by several of the educators who taught me in high school. One of my most inspirational educators had an exuberant personality and really enjoyed sharing her love for literature with her students. Upon entering her classroom, we would find a quote from the current literary piece that we were studying. That teacher knew how to invite her students to join her in a learning experience rather than just be inundated by a series of questions and answers on a worksheet!

Another teacher provided inspiration through her kindness and genuine interest in the well-being of her students. If there were an unruly student, she would not hastily scold him/her but rather let him/her know that she understood if he/she was having an « off day » and ask if she could help change that scenario. She made me realize that besides teaching the specific content area, a teacher’s goal is to let her students know that they’re valued in the classroom setting so that they’re more likely to contribute positively to it.

Q. Since the pandemic, many students have continued facing social and emotional issues, what are you doing to try to address these issues?

A. Covid put a spotlight on the responsibility of educators to be aware of the social and emotional needs of their students. Remote learning resulted in children experiencing isolation and anxiety issues. Many students were not equipped for the disruption that COVID protocols caused in their lives. As an educator, I became more sensitive to the residual effects that hybrid modes of learning imposed on my students. It is often necessary to compensate for the overall learning loss by offering more extra help sessions, small group instruction, and bridging new learning with a substantial review of former concepts.

Q. Can you describe a typical day as a Leave Replacement teacher?

A. The leave replacement experience presents new challenges each time. Some temporary positions are brief whereas others can extend for many months of a school year. I approach each leave replacement position with respect for the teacher on leave I always communicate with them about specific instructions they have for me. My goal is to ensure the continuity of education for their students. It is very important that the students do not feel stressed about adapting to a new teacher, which often occurs abruptly!

Q. What can school districts do to support someone in your role?

A. The daily schedule of a leave replacement teacher is completely dependent upon the scheduled classes of the teacher on leave. As a leave replacement teacher, one must assume all responsibilities of the teacher on leave, such as recess/ lunch duty or any other assigned responsibilities. 

It is very helpful for an Administrator to arrange a planned meeting with the leave replacement teacher in advance of the starting day of the assignment.

A walk-through of the building is essential. A leave replacement teacher must know the location of assigned classes and duties in order to report to them promptly. Special events that are part of the weekly routine should be explained, such as regular Assembly schedules or Collaborative Work Periods. I have successfully completed several leave replacements at a wonderful independent school in Montclair. I was fortunate that the gracious school Director, Supervisor, Technology Staff, and Cooperating Teachers always welcomed me and offered considerable support to me. There are various software programs and technology protocols in place to record attendance, student progress reports, and grades. I benefited greatly from the time that was afforded to me by the staff to become acquainted with essential procedures. Being welcomed and appreciated made me feel more invested in the position I had assumed.

As a result, I was motivated to perform the duties of the position to the best of my ability which had a favorable impact on the students!

Q. What is something you wish people knew about being a Leave Replacement?

A. Being a Leave Replacement teacher is not equivalent to being a Substitute teacher. There is an extended period of time that the leave replacement teacher is assigned to spend with the students of the teacher on leave. There are no sub-plans provided, so you must create your own lesson plans. If possible, it is helpful to meet in advance with the teacher who will be on planned leave. By collaborating with the teacher who will be on leave, a professional partnership will be established. There is likely to be a favorable outcome for the students if both educators make the effort to communicate the goals of the program and the needs of the students. If the leave occurs unexpectedly, a leave replacement teacher should reach out to other professionals at the school in an attempt to acquire an understanding related to how to make the transition a seamless one for the students. In the case of unforeseen circumstances requiring a teacher to take an extended leave, the students become anxious and confused about the well-being of their teacher. A caring and effective leave replacement teacher will be sensitive to the feelings of the students and put them at ease as much as possible.

To learn more about becoming a teacher, read more articles on becoming a teacher on and apply to open teaching positions in New Jersey.