After three years of employment at Gull Lake Middle School and two more years at Gull Lake High School, GLHS mathematics teacher Brittany Kiser temporarily left the school for 12 weeks at the beginning of this year. This absence wasn’t unfounded, of course; over the summer, Kiser had given birth to Adley Rae Kiser, a beautiful baby girl. Naturally, Kiser needed maternity leave while she adjusted to ― and cared for ― her newborn child, so she was on leave during the first trimester of the 2017-18 school year.
“With the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), any employee for any company is entitled to take 12 weeks off for maternity leave,” Kiser said. “I took the full 12 weeks off…, and I think it was the perfect amount of time. Since [Adley] was born in the summer, I also got the month of August off for free, and she was just over 4 months by the time I had to come back to work.”
However, missing 12 whole weeks of school without stirring up trouble is no easy feat; Kiser needed a long-term substitute to handle her classes during that time period, which, in turn, required her to plan an entire trimester’s worth of material in advance. For the sake of her substitute, she also needed to ascertain that her materials and lesson plans were well-organized.
“I put everything for the trimester in a binder with answer keys and lesson plans,” Kiser said. “I also made a special flash drive for the substitute with all of the editable files in case the sub needed to make changes. I even organized my desk and labeled all of my supplies to make sure everything would be easy to find.”
Preparing for maternity leave may have required an incredible amount of effort, but it was just as rewarding as it was grueling: according to Kiser’s long-term substitute for her Algebra I classes, Dennis Mutch, her hard work was evident ― and very much appreciated.
“She was on maternity leave, of course, but left behind a very clear and concise curriculum for me to follow,” Mutch said. “Even the other math teachers marvel at how organized she is, and, trust me, it was a big help.”
Kiser’s meticulous prior planning also allowed her to take full advantage of her much-needed time off without having to worry about the classroom she’d left behind. As a self-identified easy-going person who handles stress very well, she was able to rest easily with the knowledge that her students were in capable hands.
“I prepared as much as possible ahead of time, and knew I did everything I could to make sure everything went smoothly,” Kiser said.
Once her maternity leave was over, Kiser returned to Gull Lake and began preparing to take over for the rest of the year. She and Mutch met up at the very end of the trimester and ensured that the transition between them would be a smooth one.
“Ms. Kiser and I arranged a meeting in class during finals to do the ‘handoff’,” Mutch said. “She was going to have to help with the final grading and class submissions because I was scheduled to be out of town for the next week or so.”
The end of Kiser’s maternity leave lining up so seamlessly with the end of the first trimester was a huge help.
“I got to start off on the first day of classes, so it was much better than coming back on a random day in the middle of the trimester,” Kiser said.
Having a young child at home prevented Kiser from falling back into her old routines, however. Balancing the responsibilities of a teacher and those of a parent, she admitted, is no small feat. Even without this year’s winter epidemic, which forced Kiser to exhaust her sick days taking care of her daughter, she finds it much more difficult to manage two jobs than one.
“I used to stay after school and get all of my work done every day without feeling the need to rush home,” Kiser said. “Now, I feel bad staying late because I want to go pick up Adley from daycare.”
However, the newfound responsibility of motherhood didn’t stop Kiser from jumping right back into the thick of things. Even with a new family member to take care of, she was eager to return to work after her extended absence.
“I could tell she was very excited to be back at school ― a good sign in a good teacher,” Mutch said.
The contrast between her and her students’ attitudes was almost surreal: “The weirdest part,” Kiser said, “was feeling excited to start the school year, but everyone else was already tired and ready for winter break!”