CLPS substitute is named ‘Michigan Substitute of the Year’

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published September 1, 2022

 Center Line High School substitute teacher Thomas Walkush was named 2021-22 Michigan Substitute of the Year by Edustaff.

Center Line High School substitute teacher Thomas Walkush was named 2021-22 Michigan Substitute of the Year by Edustaff.

Photo provided by Cindy Walkush 


CENTER LINE — One day when substitute teaching at Center Line High School, a sophomore asked Thomas Walkush, “What is the meaning of good?”

The question “stumped” him.

“I am going to think about that for a while,” is what he told her before coming up with an answer. “Good is when your actions make you a better person and the people of that action also become better people.”

Walkush is a living example of that philosophy. Edustaff named Walkush the recipient of its 2021-22 Michigan Substitute of the Year Award. Based in Grand Rapids, Edustaff is an independently owned K-12 substitute staffing agency that serves school districts nationwide. 

Walkush was chosen out of 550 Michigan schools and was acknowledged at the July 18 Center Line Public Schools Board of Education meeting. 

“It’s an unexpected honor,” he said. “I’m totally amazed and humbled. It made me very happy.”

According to the meeting minutes, Michelle Merrick, Edustaff’s Eastern Michigan territory manager, presented Walkush with a plaque. Several of the district’s teachers and administrators nominated Walkush for the award. 

“Both staff and students appreciate his commitment to the betterment of the school. Others stated that he is a legend in the hallways and classrooms,” an Edustaff statement read. “As a substitute teacher, he recognizes that an important part of the position is to provide for student safety and security, as well as enforcing discipline and presenting classes.”

Walkush has been a substitute at CLHS for the past four years. He is in the classroom “every day” filling in for teachers who are absent.

“I love the interaction with the students,” he said. 

Walkush didn’t plan on being a substitute teacher. It was his wife, Cindy, who made the suggestion, and it “suits” him. He wears a suit every day to work. 

But he sets some rules the students must follow, one of them being: “If you’re sitting by somebody who really wants to learn something, your job is not to bother them.” 

He also offers advice and encouragement each day. 

“If you want to be brave, turn off your TV and open up your homework,” is what he tells the students. “Every student is trying to figure out their lives. They can have a dream and they can achieve that dream.” 

He’s open to talk to students having issues, and the students even have a nickname for Walkush.

“I’m known as Joe Biden,” he said. “‘Hey, there’s Biden.’ The kids will go with that.” 

The high school staff members, including the teachers, secretaries and custodians, have been a positive influence. 

“Some of these teachers are so amazing. They’re constantly trying to find ways to engage their students,” Walkush said. “The staff is always backing the kids up. They really care.”

Before stepping into the classroom, Walkush was a program manager of engineering with General Dynamics. He retired in 2008. Prior to that, he served two years in the U.S. Army and 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserve. 

Over the years, Walkush enrolled in college at Wayne State University in Detroit, earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in oil painting and a minor in ceramics. He eventually earned a master’s degree in public administration, and to date, he has a total of six degrees.