By Matthew Portnoy
Substitute teacher Rochelle Notov looks out towards the audience; she feels their eyes on her, anticipating the show that is about to begin. The last few spectators shuffle in as the bell sounds; Ms. Notov looks up and begins. “Good morning class! My name is Ms. Notov, and I’ll be your sub today. Please turn your attention to the SMART Board.” With the classroom as her stage, Ms. Notov enlightens her students by narrating interesting storylines, dancing through mathematical equations, and vocalizing scientific theories. Learning is her muse and teaching is her art.
Ms. Notov is no stranger to the stage. As a student at Hofstra University, she played the lead role, Charity, in the play Sweet Charity. Her love for acting, however, didn’t begin in college but rather in childhood. “From when I was the littlest kid, I would put on plays with kids in my neighborhood,” said Ms. Notov. She used her free time to create plays, using her bedroom as the stage and assigning her friends and sister supporting roles. Her mirror became the audience as she read plays aloud and acted out commercials in front of it.
Ms. Notov’s talents are numerous; she not only knows how to play many instruments—piano, cello, guitar, violin, and xylophone—but she also loves to sing. However, even with all her music lessons and other extracurricular activities, what she looked forward to the most during the week was acting. “Saturdays were my day. I went to the Pittsburgh Playhouse, and I performed in the children’s theater, and it was my magic time,” Ms. Notov recalls.
Although Ms. Notov isn’t making stage debuts now, she still acts daily in front of the classroom. “I never know where I’m going to be or what face I’m going to have to put on,” Ms. Notov said. Although she has a master’s degree in English, theatre, and speech education, she teaches everything. One day she may have to play the part of history instructor and the next day act out the fictional character Willy Loman for an English class.
Ms. Notov is not only a substitute teacher; she is a real estate agent, a Hebrew school teacher, an advertising agent, and a recording studio manager. However, through all of her jobs, past and present, being a teacher is where she believes she belongs. Ms. Notov prefers being a substitute because it allows her the flexibility to have other jobs outside of school. On Monday, Ms. Notov may be a substitute teacher for an English class and on Tuesday, she could be running an open house. She enjoys not having the normal 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. work day. “I’m not retirable—I don’t think. I love doing this, and if I can, I will continue.” While Ms. Notov said that some of her other jobs are more lucrative, that is not what matters to her. “For me, it’s all about the kids. I love my kids from the moment I meet [them],” she said.