Mr. Bob’ brings decades of skills to substitute teaching at Providence Day
Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014

Mr. Bob’ brings decades of skills to substitute teaching at Providence Day

Anne Lumadue, left, suggested in 1999 that her husband, Bob, give substitute teaching a try. “I have never enjoyed anything more,” he says.

If experience is the best teacher, Providence Day School students are in good hands with “Mr. Bob.”

A lifetime of consistently diverse living and work experiences has served Robert Lumadue well during his 14 years as a substitute teacher at the school. After working for more than 40 years for four different companies, “I have never enjoyed anything more,” says the 81-year-old Charlottean and Air Force veteran who has lived in 15 states and has a working knowledge of four different languages.

Lumadue isn’t the kind to brag that he could be an inspiration for other seniors looking for meaningful work that can shape young lives. But he’s open to the notion: “We have others who are almost my age who are doing this.

“What I’m the proudest of, and what I feel most blessed about, is it’s almost as if my whole life and working career prepared me for this.”

Born in Arizona, Lumadue moved as a baby with his family to Oklahoma and grew up there. During his four years in the Air Force – where he was a postal operator and basketball standout – he spent time in North Carolina, Texas, Indiana, California, Alaska and Georgia.

After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1958, he worked for Procter & Gamble in Kansas City; Omaha, Neb.; and Cincinnati. He moved on to Fiber Industries, a subsidiary of Celanese Corp., where he worked in Charlotte and Shelby, then he worked in North Carolina for Duke Power and lastly for J.A. Jones Construction Co.

“I’ve had residence in 15 states and have been in probably 42 states,” he says, with most of that time in Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas and – since 1969 – North Carolina.

Comfortable in schools

Lumadue says he has taught math, science, English, music, writing, history – “I tell everybody the history is easy, because I was there” he deadpans – physical education, computer science, Spanish, German, French and Chinese.

“I’m not an expert in anything and am not fluent in any of those languages, but I’m pretty decent in Spanish,” he says.

He credits his past worklife for his language versatility: “I worked with quite a few Spanish-speaking people when I was with Fiber Industries and quite a few German-speaking people when I was with J.A. Jones Construction. Also, I had some French along the way. And Chinese is very difficult but I can follow it along.”

As for the other subjects, “I was a graduate chemical engineer, so the math and science comes pretty well. I love literature and English and have done a lot of writing; I have always been involved in music and was exposed to music theory in school; and as for sports, I played football, basketball, played tennis and ran track and did some coaching.”

School has always been a comfortable environment for him – his mother was a teacher – and he has an affinity for young people: “The association with the kids has been the biggest part of it.”

Lumadue relishes the unique challenge faced by substitute teachers: “You’re not baby-sitting, but you’re not actively teaching 50 minutes of every class all the time, either. Sometimes you’re just supervising or following a lesson plan that’s been laid out for you. But there is also some real ‘teaching teaching’ – and I really enjoy that.”

Embracing ‘Mr. Bob’

He says Anne Lumadue, his wife of 60 years, not only put him through college while raising two babies but was the one who suggested he try his hand as a substitute after they had retired in 1999.

“I was leaving him home in the mornings a lot,” Anne said. “I just said one day as I was leaving to play golf, ‘Why don’t you see if one of the schools would take you on as a substitute?’ ... The school responded almost immediately.

“He has loved every moment of it, and some of the young people have really embraced him. It seems everywhere we go, like the coffee shop of the pizza place, there are always these young school people working on their computer or whatnot and they say hi to ‘Mr. Bob.’ 

Lumadue has been so well received at Providence Day, he said he was asked to speak at its annual senior and faculty dinner in conjunction with graduation in 2011.

“That’s the first time a substitute teacher has ever been asked. That really humbled me,” he says.

He and his wife remain busy with other pursuits, including community Bible study, as he approaches his 82nd birthday in February. Meanwhile, he hopes to continue with the school “for a while longer.”

“We have a good life right now,” Mr. Bob says.

Reid Creager is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Reid? Email him at

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