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No substitute for Barbour

Jan. 6, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff
Longtime Champlain Valley Union High substitute teacher Wil Barbour holds up a student drawing of Texas and an ‘armadillo cow’ on Dec. 22, his last day at the school. Barbour left CVU late last month for new job near Austin, Texas. (Observer photo by Tim Simard)

Described by students as intelligent, beloved and “the best,” Wil Barbour left Champlain Valley Union High School on Dec. 22 a better man, by his own account. The longtime substitute teacher said goodbye to students and staff before heading off into the southern sunlight.

What Barbour thought would be a quiet last day at the school turned into anything but. Swarms of students descended upon CVU’s library to wish their friend the best as he departed for a new job in Texas. Amidst hugs and high fives, Barbour held court in the library, sharing memories with students while helping check books out to others.

“This is still a work day for me,” Barbour said with a wide grin.

Since 2002, Barbour subbed off and on — but mostly on — for countless teachers and, by his own estimation, visited every classroom within CVU. The only class he never substituted for was the Chinese Language class, he said.

Sporting a graying beard, a tie-dyed shirt and an unending smile, Barbour reminisced about the students he’d met and friends he’d accumulated over eight years. Students remembered Barbour’s propensity for playing different musical instruments in class, as well as wearing kilts and breaking into a Scottish accent at the drop of a hat. Students gathered many of these memories within a specially-created book, complete with drawings and well wishes.

Barbour left for Texas in late December to work at Camp Half-Blood, a fantasy themed youth camp outside Austin. Barbour has worked there for the past several summers and now he’ll be on hand in a full-time position, he said.

“This is kind of a new chapter in my life,” he said.

Barbour’s near constant presence at CVU left an indelible mark on many students’ high school experiences, said Shelburne senior Michael Clayton. Barbour was more than just a substitute; students learned a lot about a variety of subjects from Barbour, Clayton added.

Williston senior Kaya Yurieff said CVU wouldn’t be same without Barbour.

“I’ll miss seeing him walking in the halls, always smiling,” Yurieff said.