What Paternity Leave Looks For Us And
By Dylan Carmody, Reporter
Having a baby is never a smooth process, but these hurdles are overcome with the excitement and joy that a new life brings. Three teachers at Vashon Island High School (VHS) are getting a chance to experience this high themselves; Heather Miller, Gavin Kovite, and Matt Tilden all are expecting children this semester.
Miller. is going on maternity leave between the end of March and the beginning of April, 2022. With her guidance, the school is currently working to find a long term substitute to replace Miller while she is on leave. Though this teacher will not be in the classroom before Miller leaves, she intends to make sure the substitute has everything they need.
“[The substitute will] be running my classes. I’ll give them what we’ve been doing so far. And what we usually do and they get to kind of take the reins,” Miller said. “I’m planning on creating a document [to show] here’s where we’re at, here’s what we usually do for AP, here’s what you need to do to prepare for the AP exam, and all of that,”
Despite the challenges of preparing for her leave, she isn’t worried about how her students will fare. Many of Miller’s students have been very supportive of her from the moment she announced her due date, even going as far to host a surprise babyshower.
“I was gone one day and I noticed that none of the work that I assigned had gotten done in class. I came into class the next day ready to scold them and suddenly they had me close my eyes and turn around and then present me with a cute little diaper cake and gift and all that. It was really sweet,” Miller said.
A party, her students felt was well deserved for all of her years of teaching social studies and leadership. The senior students from her leadership class have also been working to make another teacher’s transition that much easier, from engaging in the material to retaining a positive vibe in the classroom. English teacher Gavin Kovite, is going on paternity leave on March 21.. Like Miller, he has also been preparing his students for a long term sub.
“There will be a new long term substitute teacher that rolls in after the 21st of March and will take over the class with my curriculum, although the new teacher will have some substantial freedom to do what he or she wants to do,” Kovite said.
This isn’t Kovite’s first time going on paternity leave. He went on leave once before to spend time with his now toddler, and looks forward to spending the time with his wife and newborn child as well.
“I’m very excited for this new baby. I am the primary parent in terms of caretaking although obviously the baby’s going to be very small and so my wife will be breastfeeding at the time. But it’ll give me a chance to be really close to the new baby and spend more time with my other toddler and just have nice family time,” Kovite said.
Kovite expressed his appreciation to work for a district that accommodates him to go on paternity leave to spend time with his family. He still regrets not being there for the senior classes he is teaching.
“I do miss the students when I go and it is sad, especially spring senior year. I really enjoy that time because it’s a special time for students. And I remember spring of my senior year and it really being an interesting and fun time. So I’ll be sad not being in the classroom for that,” Kovite said.
Despite this, he wanted to leave his students with a role in this experience and entrusted the seniors with the responsibility of helping him and his wife decide a different for their new child. Originally, the baby’s name was going to be “Stout”, however, after playing around with it, he decided to ask the class about it.
“We had some concerns about a kid growing up named Stout. And when I polled it with my students, students were resoundingly negative. Like ‘please don’t give that name to a kid.’ And I think that was the right decision,” Kovite said.
His wife and him have decided to go with a different name for their child instead as a result of this influence.
Matt Tilden, a VHS social studies teacher, is going on paternity leave after spring break. Unlike Kovite and Miler, he only plans to take 3 weeks off instead of the rest of the school year. With this in mind, he doesn’t plan to have a long term sub.
“I think we have a lot of great substitutes, accountants, and awesome building subs. And Callan has done an amazing job this year establishing relationships with kids. I also have a lot of confidence in her and the other subs that we have,” Tilden said.
The online learning curriculum shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic have helped prepare him for this situation.
“I do think COVID has made it so a lot of the materials for the class are already flipped [to online]. So that’s good,” Tilden said.
He presents confidence in his students that they will be able to muster the motivation to do the work he has laid out for them, and allot him more time to spend with his newborn child.
“I think it’s really important bonding time with a new child and with my wife, and for employees that take maternity leave, it’s obviously important, because it’s the first part of a baby’s life,” Tiden said.
Tilden plans on taking the time to relax with his family as well, spending the time not just to connect with his child, but to take some time away from an intense school year.
“It’s also been a pretty intense school year. It’s been hard to balance those[work and family life],” Tilden said.
In the end, Tilden, Kovite, and Miller have invested time in making sure both their families and students won’t be left behind when these changes occur. Students have given back as well, making this experience far more enriching than it would have been otherwise. For these teachers, it has been one of their highest moments while going through this journey.
“I would tell other parents congratulations. And that if it’s their first then at least my experience was that it was even better than expected.” Kovite Said.