Beloved sub James McDowell reflects on his time in the pandemic


Rachel Matatyaou

Carlmont substitute James McDowell shares his Carlmont spirit with his swim and dive hoodie.

Carlmont has a special connection with some of the substitute teachers, and with distance learning, students haven’t seen much of their favorite substitute teachers. 

With remote instruction, there have been fewer job opportunities for substitute teachers. For James McDowell, a substitute teacher at Carlmont, this is both a blessing and a curse. 

“When there is a job opening, anyone can pick it up. It’s not a scheduled event at all, so it’s a little bit more difficult for me,” McDowell said. 

However, the well-known substitute has filled his time elsewhere. McDowell has picked up many new activities and tried some things he hadn’t done in a while, like surfing.

“I’m moving along pretty well, and I tried to start surfing again. I’m being very humble about it since I’m starting way back from the beginning,” McDowell said.

In addition to surfing, McDowell has been interested in some art. He has been learning a lot about the Art-Deco period and has even tried some art of his own.

“I’ve been designing skateboards; I make a little theme with them […] I’ve been trying to take photographs with art-deco-inspired portraits. Also, I’ve been antiquing and buying things from the 30s and 40s,” McDowell said.

McDowell has also continued his open-water swimming and gone to a few interesting islands to swim. Along with that, he went to tour different colleges with his granddaughter.

McDowell’s love for the water has proved useful at Carlmont, as he has made a bond and an impact on students by connecting with them in regards to swimming or water polo. 

“Back during swim season, he would always come to our meets and congratulate us after a race, and he’s always friendly when he subs a class,” said Billy Picht, a junior and member of the swim team

Other swimmers echo Picht’s opinions regarding McDowell’s support. 

“He’s definitely just a positive presence at the pool, and he’s always there to support the athletes, and I feel like that means a lot to the team,” said Emma Elliott, a junior. 

Although McDowell hasn’t been able to work much during these times, he is hopeful of returning to campus. He really misses the students.  

“I’m displaced. I mean, as everybody knows, I’m there for the kids, and I love the sports […] It took a long time for me to adjust to [the shutdown],” McDowell said. “Such a great portion of my life had just stopped.” 

When asked what advice he has for the students, McDowell phrased it quite simply: “Remind yourself, as I do, that we’re all in this together. We have to take care of each other and take care of ourselves.”