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Popular substitute teacher motivated by life in education

Alan Estrada enjoying a nice day at the Pt. Piños Grill in Pacific Grove. Photo by CARA ELDER.



Throughout Carmel High School and Carmel Middle, there are legends about the best substitute teacher in the district. They call him “Sub’ Alan,” or as he is professionally known, Alan Estrada.

“I think Sub Alan is a fantastic sub,” says junior Ermalyn Dinkel about the beloved substitute. “He’s always engaging us and making learning fun.”

The 53-year-old substitute teacher resides in Carmel-by-the-Sea and enjoys his time here and at other schools. Estrada substitutes at CHS and CMS, and also at P.G. High, P.G. Middle and Bay View Academy in Monterey.

Along his way to becoming a substitute teacher, Estrada has led an exciting life, from learning Japanese and having art agents sell his artwork in Japan in the ’90s to designing the logo for Films Without Borders, which landed him a first class ticket to Buckingham Palace in 2011.

He taught a creative writing course for GED students at Boise State University and has matriculated twice in graduate school, in philosophy and painting. He cannot stress enough the importance of getting a higher education.

Estrada also has over 30 years of experience creating political cartoons. In 1988, one of his cartoons won 1st Place by the California Intercollegiate Press Association and it will be included in his 30-year political cartoon collection this coming year.

Sub Alan considers himself a life-long learner and his 14-year-old son Julian is a continual source of inspiration. “Without him,” he says, “this would not be as meaningful.”

Dedicated to education, Alan has attended five universities. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from UC Irvine in 1988 and matriculated in graduate school at San Diego State University (philosophy), and later transferred to University of Washington.

After a stint pursuing the MFA in painting at Boise State University, he attended U.C. Berkeley, taking courses in philosophy, painting, poetry and writing.

Estrada attributes his decision to become a sub to a story he heard on TV by KION news reporter Amanda Gomez in October 2015.

“This county is the fourth most depressed for teachers and subs in the state,” he recalls. “That made me feel like making a social contribution.”

Across all the schools he subs at, Estrada says that his favorite part of the experience is interacting with students and sharing his knowledge with them.

“I think Sub Alan is a really cool guy,” sophomore Jasmine Bauer comments on the easygoing substitute. “Even though he is older than us, he still relates to us on a personal level.”

Estrada has his NFHS lifetime coaching credentials and is looking forward to someday coaching track again, and maybe basketball. In 1990 he played semi-professional basketball in Japan, and he went to U.C. Irvine on a track scholarship, as well as coaching track at the high school level.

In his free time, the artist likes to hit the waves on his boogie board, as well as drum in a local band The Mach Two Project, who has played the Wharf to Wharf the last five years running. He also adores his cat Shadow and loves gardening as a form of meditation. All of this helps him keep his cool when he’s not subbing around the peninsula.

“Did I mention that I am totally awesome?” the favorite substitute says mockingly about himself. “Awesome is a great word,” he adds. “Wandering reverence, tinged with fear, inspired by the sublime . . . is that not awesome?”

Yes, it is.

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