More than a substitute: alumnus Scott Winfrey shares the impact he hopes to have on students


Courtesy of Scott Winfrey

Working with junior Elliot Krewson, alumni Scott Winfrey helps him finish a project for business class. Winfrey graduated in 2008 and since then has been working to have an impact on students in the classes he substitutes for. “I don’t believe in ‘good or bad’ students,” Winfrey said. “Only energy that is focused productively or not. Students are not opposed to working hard. They just want to find meaning in the work they do.”

As a substitute teacher, you get limited time with the students in class due to a plan already written out for you by the teacher. Not only does substitute teacher and alumnus Scott Winfrey accomplish this, but he also hopes students walk out of his class gaining experiences they otherwise would not have had.

“I come to inspire the students, but by the end of the day, the students are the ones who have inspired me,” Winfrey said. “Last year, when I taught Mrs. Keller’s Science classes at West High. I was able to work for a week consecutively; there her students showed me that achievement doesn’t come all at once, but from small triumphs hammered out each day. If we only worked when we felt like [only a] little, if anything, would ever get done. During that week, I saw the most powerful thing I have ever witnessed at my job before or since, commitment.”

Although Winfrey is a well-known substitute teacher around the school, when he graduated in 2008, he believes he did not have the same merit he has now.

“I treated high school like a 9-to-5 job,” Winfrey said. “I let the excuses stop me from being involved in sports, after school activities and events. I did this by telling myself that I didn’t have enough energy. That I didn’t get enough sleep. That I didn’t have enough money. That I didn’t have enough friends. Time, perspective and a deep desire to find meaning in my life is what changed my outlook.” 

During college, Winfrey discovered his passion for helping others, boosting his desire to teach and wanting to influence his peers.

I never fight the energy, merely redirect it. It’s important that students know that I’m not there to change them but to help them become the best versions of themselves.”

— Scott Winfrey

“While in college, other students would come to me for assistance,” Winfrey said. “Even though the college had many resources available, sometimes these vast and redundant resources could backfire, and students felt intimidated and overwhelmed. Luckily, I found myself enjoying helping other students succeed even more than I enjoyed my own classes.”

Because of his past experiences, Winfrey plans to continue his journey in education in order to help others achieve their goals.

“I am currently working towards a degree at UMSL for Master of Education in Adult & Higher Education,” Winfrey said. “I decided to choose this degree as I struggled as a young person in transitioning into adulthood. I feel like a good educator should struggle and have wide experiences on how to cope with struggle.”

Even though Winfrey feels it can be challenging subbing for a class, he uses different methods to accomplish all the work that needs to be done.

“I understand that a sub can be viewed as an ‘indoor snow day,’ ” Winfrey said. “I like to ‘flip the script’ and take that excited energy and focus it productively.

Winfrey feels the key to being successful is through his relationships with students. He hopes that every student in his class feels respected regardless of their background.

“Teaching is not all about lecturing, it’s also about listening,” Winfrey said. “I understand that young people have problems too. It’s not always clear what a student is going through in his or her life, so it is important as the adult in the room to set the example of respect, empathy and kindness.”