Living Legend: Emily Underwood


Most substitute teachers don’t make an impact on students’ lives. They’re usually in class for a day or two and then forgotten by the thirty or so kids they were in charge of. But when given the opportunity to become an interim sub,  like Ms. Underwood, they are remembered and loved by all their temporary students. If you were to ask any Ipswich High School student who one of their favorite substitutes are, you’re likely going to be told Ms. Underwood. She came to IHS last year as Mrs. McShane’s sub during her maternity leave and was instantly loved by her students, making a lasting impact.

Ms. Underwood grew up with a love for English. Her favorite book growing up, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Conningsworth, amazed her with it’s stunning imagery and themes. She says she “always loved reading, writing, and books so it seemed like natural fit” for her career. However she didn’t originally see herself as a teacher. A lot of her aunts and uncles were educators and she just couldn’t see herself going down that path. She would even get annoyed with her friends and family who assumed she was becoming a teacher just because she was an English major. So she tried just about everything else in the English field, from publishing to being a librarian. But after dropping out of graduate school, Ms. Underwood got a part-time job substitute teaching and fell in love with it. She thinks she “sort of fell into it after getting over herself.”

Once Ms. Underwood finally decided she wanted to be an English teacher, she knew she belonged in a middle or high school. She says, “my personality and sense of humor are much better suited for older students. I used to work at a summer camp, and although I like little kids, I don’t want to be in charge of so many of them.” Also, she only wanted to teach English, which she could only do in secondary education. It’s good that she made that decision because all her high school students from last year love her. IHS Junior, Ellie O’Donnell says that “when I first met Ms. Underwood, I was eager to get to know her. Originally she came off a bit shy but I liked her a lot. She was very sweet.” Ms. Underwood has built a reputation of being a kind and caring teacher, who relates to and wants to get to know her students. Former student Audrey McMorrow states she “gets to know her students really well and figures out what is going to motivate each student individually.”

During her time as an interim substitute, Ms. Underwood learned a lot about teaching and about her students. The most important lesson she learned was being willing to ask for help. Making a resource of more experienced teachers and being open to help taught her a lot during her substituting. She believes that the willingness to ask for help is a good quality in students. Although teachers want to help students succeed, it’s difficult for them to know when to help if students don’t reach out to them.

Now that her time as an interim substitute and student teacher is over, Ms. Underwood is looking for a full-time job. She is still substituting at Ipswich High but is considering finding a job teaching English overseas. She is a wonderful colleague, teacher, and friend to many students, and we couldn’t imagine Ipswich High without her.