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Ms. Barbie: Barb Hottman is Popular Substitute Teacher - from The Messenger

November 13, 2021

When Barb Hottman was a second-grader at Feelhaver Elementary School, one of her friends gave her the nickname, "Barbie."

"She (classmate) started calling me Barbie and it stuck," Hottman said Friday at the school, 1300 14th Ave. N. "Her and I were in the classroom next door."

Now, many years later, Hottman is serving as a substitute teacher at Feelhaver.

Her nickname remains. The only difference is the Ms. in front of it.

When students see her, they often are excited to share something with her.

"There's nothing greater than walking through the schools, getting hugs and having students shout, "Ms. Barbie! Ms.

Barbie!" Hottman said. "Once you do get to know the kids - oh my gosh - there's nothing greater than that warm welcome."

Hottman is a retired regular classroom teacher. She graduated from Fort Dodge Senior High before earning her bachelor's degree in elementary education from the Univesity of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. She taught for 30 years in Sante Fe, Texas.

In 2015, following her retirement, she was ready to come home to Fort Dodge. And she brought the southern accent back with her.

"Fort Dodge is home," Hottman said. "I have four seasons again. I am comfortable here."

When her parents passed away, Hottman moved back into the house she grew up in.

She wasn't retired for long when she began substitute teaching for the Fort Dodge Community School District.

"I took a year off to see what it was like to be retired and thought that was enough," Hottman said.

She's on a relatively short list of substitutes the district has been able to turn to.

"We definitely are in a sub shortage," said Feelhaver Principal Sara Fitzgerald. "But we have a regular pool of community members and retired teachers who do come in to our schools."

Hottman began substituting in 2016. In 2019, she was called upon to substitute long-term for a kindergarten class.

Then in the spring of 2021, she was called upon again to substitute long-term for second grade.

"She was a long-term sub two years ago with the same group of kids," Fitzgerald said.

Having that familiarity has been beneficial.

"I already know them, they already know me," Hottman said.

Even though Hottman spent her career as a regular classroom teacher, she was somewhat fearful about becoming a substitute.

"I was terrified of subbing, but then took my first sub position for two weeks," she said. "I loved it and have been subbing ever since."

Hottman credits the FDCSD for creating a welcoming atmosphere.

"The one thing I want substitutes to know about this district, the big thing is when I first started I was afraid I would be treated like a sub," she said. "That's why I was afraid. That will not happen in this district.

"Everyone I have met in this school district has treated me as if I was part of their family. They have all treated me like I belong here. I have a whole different appreciation for subs now than what I did in Texas. That's the one thing I'd like to get across. It is so much fun. I don't need to do this. I get a retirement check. I choose to do this. I have fun with the kids. It's a wonderful district to be a substitute in."

Hottman said substitute teachers are valuable to regular classroom teachers.

"Without the substitutes, other teachers have to fill in to those classrooms that need a sub," Hottman said. "For those teachers, you need that prep time and that cuts into it. Without the subs, the kids aren't getting that consistency."

Most recently, Hottman has been teaching her students about fossils. She brought in a few big ones to show.

"They love it," Hottman said. "They have a lot of fun at it. We have been doing experiments on how the erosion happens. I brought some fossils in. When I was in Texas, we were just walking through the dried up creek beds and found all kinds of amazing fossils. They thought that was so cool that they were holding something 65 million years old."

One of the first things Hottman tells students when she comes in as a new substitute is that she is different from their regular teacher.

"When I go into a classroom for the first time, the first thing I do, I say, 'I am not your teacher. I'm going to teach differently than her, but that's OK,'" Hottman said. "You might learn something the way I'm teaching it versus another teacher. It gives them those different learning styles."

Any professional in education can impact students in a positive way.

"Sometimes that teacher is all they have," Hottman said. "And sometimes it's a sub that they can relate to that they don't see every day. That becomes special, too."

Hottman said she enjoys watching students learn.

"When something clicks, I get as excited as they do," she said. "My favorite part has always been to be with the kids. Just let me come in and teach."

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