Dr. Houston impacts the school positively through subbing

Kylie Clifton, Feature Editor

“A man who cares for his students and tries to show each student they have the potential to do anything they want in this world. They way he treats people is the way I want to treat people. He has made a huge impact on my life,” says senior Hannah Thomas Perez. “I don’t know what I would do without him!”

Thomas Perez describes a person who is not just a pivotal influence in her life, but a mainstay in PN culture: Dr. Jim Houston.

Houston serves the school in many different capacities, including Empowered Club co-leader, Black History Month helper, DECA helper, IB exam assistant, and substitute teacher.

“He’s an incredible sub. He connects well with the students, he’s extremely knowledgeable, he’s just a great addition to this building, when I see him he smiles at everyone,” says business teacher Jeanine Patterson.

Houston’s impact reaches beyond the classroom when it comes to his passion for empowering students of color to succeed.“He always has such a great spirit in the morning and helps lead conversation during empowerment club meetings,” says sophomore Dra’Noscha Jett. “We met through me being in the BHMA but ever since he has been so much of a help. Last year when I considered dropping for the assembly because of insecurities, he helped me pushed through.”

Thomas-Perez reflects on the first time she met Houston. “I met Dr. Houston freshman year and ever since then I have always looked forward to seeing him in the hallways. I always recommend to freshmen to talk to him and get to know him because he is truly so wise and will help with anything,” she says.

Houston recalls how he came to be a Huskie: “I came to Portage Northern about ten years ago at the urging of a friend (Mrs. Nott) who was teaching at Northern at the time. I was subbing at most of the high schools in Kalamazoo County, and at the urging of Mrs. Nott, I came and substituted at Northern,” he remembers. “I liked it here!”

A decade later, Houston is still needed at Portage, especially now. Amidst a shortage of substitute teachers in Portage, impactful substitute teachers like Houston are in greater need. “The shortage this year at PN seems to be more prevalent than last year,” explains administrative assistant Kim Loiselle. “Many jobs will sit open in the system and never get picked up, potentially leaving classes without adequate coverage, thus meaningful learning and student success is compromised.” Dr. Houston fills this need regularly, subbing every day that he is able.

“The greatest impact for me has been the increased requests for days to substitute. I like to substitute as much as I can,” says Houston. “I am busy subbing during the months of January through May, which is when IB, AP, SAT, and ACT exams are given.” This creates a conflict for Houston, because he loves to help with those assessments in any way that he can, usually calming students’ nerves before testing.

Whatever capacity he is serving in, one thing is for certain: Dr. Houston is changing students’ lives for the better. “I feel like we have the best substitutes here at Portage Northern. It’s subs like Dr. Houston who make me forget we have a shortage in the first place,” says Thomas Perez.