Rodney Plancher graduated from Inlet Grove High School two years ago, but But he still missed the school that helped shape and grow him.
He missed hanging out on the basketball courts, helping the librarian clean up after school, hanging with friends between classes, even being captain of the school’s bowling team.
Now Plancher, 20, again walks the halls of the Riviera Beach charter school — this time, as a substitute teacher.
“I used to hang in the halls, sometimes cause a little trouble,” Plancher said with a laugh. “Now I lead the class.”
Plancher is one of a handful of recent graduates, all now in college, who are coming to school in their extra time to work as substitutes. None of them are education majors, but all are looking to give back to the school that gave so much to them.
“I call them my little Rat Pack,” Principal Emma Banks said, adding that maybe she should call them the Scholar Pack instead. “These students can relate to the kids and show them how to be gentlemen.”
The young men have only been substitute teaching at the school for about a month and a half. They signed on after running into Banks at a Wal-Mart on Congress Avenue. Plancher and his friend Moise Thelusma, 20, were there shopping when Banks spotted them.
“I said, ‘Why don’t you come and sub for me? What a better thing to do?’ ” Banks said. “I said, ‘Come in Monday morning, and they all came.’ ”
Plancher is studying civil engineering, while his older brother, Keynaud Plancher, 21, is studying aerospace engineering. They are at Palm Beach State College now, but both plan to transfer to the University of Central Florida in the spring.
Thelusma is studying criminal justice — although he has now added on a minor in education since he began substitute teaching. He is also at Palm Beach State, but said he is going to Florida Atlantic University in the fall.
Sue Walters, a human-resources specialist with the Palm Beach County School District, said she doesn’t often see college students coming back to substitute teach, especially if they’re not planning to look for a career in education.
She said substitute teachers need to have 30 hours of college credit in order to apply for the job and must provide references.
Prospective substitutes also must pass a background check and get fingerprinted, among other requirements. Banks said her former students have done all that.
Hiring former students works well, Banks said, because they already know the school’s culture and current students respect them.
“This is helping our kids, especially our young black boys,” Banks said.
Banks said she likes to think of her school as a home, and her students and staff as a family.
It’s a cliché, perhaps, but Banks makes it a reality. She has paid electric bills for students whose families couldn’t afford it, bought furniture and clothes for other students, and tracked them after high school to make sure they continue to succeed.
In the past, when some of her former students have graduated college and had trouble finding a job, Banks has reached out to her contacts to help them, or even hired them on at Inlet Grove herself, she said.
“If I didn’t go here, I’m not sure I would have gone straight on to college,” said Thelusma. At Inlet Grove, all students must have been accepted to a college or university in order to walk on graduation, Banks said.
“Kids here know that Ms. Banks is going to take care of you,” Keynaud Plancher said, adding that was his motivation to return as a substitute teacher. “The (teachers and staff) get involved in a deeper way, not just in a student’s academic life.”