North Liberty man spends months at a library computer, accomplishing goal of becoming a substitute teacher

Walthall Odom (right) shows off substitute teaching badge. Odom spent months at the North...
Walthall Odom (right) shows off substitute teaching badge. Odom spent months at the North Liberty Community Library in order to apply. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Dec. 9, 2019 at 5:53 PM CST
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In most cases, people will go to the library to check out a book, but for one North Liberty man, it was to check out a potential career.

Iowa has a statewide shortage of substitute teachers according to the National Education Association. For Walthall Odom, he said it was his goal to get involved to combat that shortage.

"It's a lengthy process to become a substitute teacher," Odom said.

Odom has spent the past few months turning the library into his temporary workspace. For hundreds of hours, he went to the North Liberty Community Library and sat at the computers nearest to the check-out desk which are designated to help people look for jobs. Odom said he was not simply looking for his next career opportunity, he was looking to fulfill a dream: to become a substitute teacher.

"It's not a job, it's like a lifestyle," Odom said. "And I just love helping people, kids, and just assisting and seeing what impact I can have on their lives, just like people impacted my life to get there."

According to the National Education Association, Iowa has a little more than 9,000 substitutes across the state. It says that marks the highest those numbers have ever been, but compared to 33,000 teachers, there is still a need for more.

"That's why I went into it," Odom said. "At first, I didn't know there was a greater need becoming a substitute teacher, but as I got into it and researched it, I saw that there was a great need of being a substitute teacher, and also being a teacher."

Last week, Odom got some good news: he was officially certified by the state's Board of Educational Examiners as an eligible and licensed substitute teacher. But he says it would have been impossible without the library and the staff that went above-and-beyond for him.

"Watching someone be able to meet a goal they're trying to meet or get a job, all those things are thrilling for us," said Jennie Garner, the Library Director at the North Liberty Community Library. "That's what libraries are all about."

The North Liberty Community Library has been pushing to help people get jobs, and Odom noticed how the staff helped him time and time again with life and career advice as he worked to become certified.

"Most times you can't use the computer for an hour," Odom said. "They let me use the computers for four, five, six hours."

Garner said job placement and job searching has gone hand-in-hand with the library in the past, and being able to see it work through Odom's success is amazing.

"We have people Skyping interviews in the meeting rooms, people doing career development, meeting to start businesses," Garner said.

Now that Odom is certified to teach, he considers his dream job a chance to keep helping others.

"I think the last part of my life, I would like to serve other people in the nursing and teaching," Odom said. "What I would say to other people is don't give up on your dreams."

Odom said he is already in the progress of applying for nursing school, eventually to fulfill another dream of his. He said his plans to apply will not differ from the game plan that already worked so well: he will be back at the library to continue to apply.