Not Your Average Substitute Teacher: Dr. Liz Cozad

Not Your Average Substitute Teacher: Dr. Liz Cozad
Dr. Liz Cozad doubles as a palliative care specialist by day and a substitute teacher... also by day. Read about this interesting side venture!

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We met a physician who doubles as a substitute teacher and thought it was so darn cool.

Here’s an interview we conducted with her, to answer some of our (and surely your) burning question about this side venture!


Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am Liz Cozad, double boarded internal medicine and hospice/palliative medicine in the suburbs of Kansas City. I work as a Nocturnist at a community hospital and am a hospice medical director.


Is there a “background story” to your current side venture?

I am a mom of four (awesome!) kids, now ages 13/11/10/7. I was fairly involved in our local elementary school PTA volunteering pre covid. We homeschooled our kids during the covid year, so I became comfortable with following a lesson plan.

At the first PTA meeting in the 2021/2022 school year the principal mentioned the substitute teacher shortage (esp with mandatory quarantines for illness) and mentioned that parents could become ‘emergency substitute teachers’ and that would be really helpful. I inquired about the process (two years of college, clean background check, negative TB test) which I already had.


So how did it all begin?

I started substituting in November 2021 after I completed the online substitute training through the temporary agency.

Since then, I average 5 days / month in the school and have done literally every position Pre K-6, art/music/library/PE, resource room, special Ed, building sub. It has been very life giving, especially after seeing so much death and sadness in the hospital with covid. It is fun to know all the staff and students (school population is ~320). My kids attend a highly racially/socioeconomically / neurodiverse Title 1 school, so having another familiar face who students know cares is helpful.


What’s your favorite topic been so far, as a sub?

I really have enjoyed subbing in sixth grade.
They have interesting science projects, such as dissection, and you can have intelligent discussions on social studies topics.


Any fun or interesting story to share about the kids, or a class?

Yes. They loved when I shared that I had an entire test (hospice boards) that was based on my ability to do multiplication/division by hand, and so learning how to do math was actually important.


Do you find that teaching is at all like doctoring? Or are they worlds apart?

As a Hospitalist and hospice physician, I do a lot of disease education. There is a lot of teaching in medicine, even if one is not in academics. Both roles require gaining trust fairly quickly so you can reach a goal. There are lots of similarities.


How do the other teachers treat you when you’re substituting? What do they think of your side venture?

I am very active in PTA, so I am a familiar face. Most are impressed I am willing to come and do a job that I am over qualified for and be underpaid to do so. I get a lot of respect and thanks.


Was the process of getting certified as a sub difficult? Tedious?

I had to order up my undergrad transcript, be finger printed & provide proof of a tb test for the license. I did about 12 hours if online training. The standard workplace education (ergonomics, sexual harassment, DEI, blood borne pathogen was tedious because of prior trainings (although obviously those are important). The classroom management was boring but useful. Slightly worse than some CME.


What did your family first think of your plan to become a sub?

My family was surprised, but supportive. My kids all loved it.


Does you find it takes special qualities to be a sub/teacher? Does engaging in it sharpen any qualities/make them better?

Patience, creativity and flexibility. Sometimes plans do not work, technology fails, kids hate change and react poorly. I think being able to perform in uncomfortable circumstances or outside one’s comfort zone is good.


Do you think you’d continue being a substitute, even when your children graduate?

I enjoy knowing I am helpful. I want to kids on my community to be educated, and as you average an entire year of substitutes over the course of a 12 year education, at least I know they are learning what they are supposed to be learning, not just watching TV.


If you could go back in time and meet someone famous, who would you choose and why (random, but fun question)?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His ability to live by his convictions is very impressive.

Have a blessed day!

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