Navy veteran, substitute teacher surprised by elementary students in Fairhill

"I wanted to do something that I knew was worthwhile, and I enjoyed working with students," said Robert Isard.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- There was a warm patriotic outpouring of love just in time for Veterans Day at the Honorable Luis Munoz-Marin Elementary School in the Fairhill section of Philadelphia.

The star of the show was Navy veteran and popular substitute teacher Robert Isard. Students lovingly call him Mr. I.

They held a surprise for all he's done at the school and in honor of him serving.

"He surprised me on the first day of school, so it was our turn to surprise him," said 8th grader Carmen Santiago.

Mr. I could easily continue to enjoy retirement. But his heart called him to help children.

"I wanted to do something that I knew was worthwhile, and I enjoyed working with students," said Isard.

He says the surprise Wednesday resonated with how much he had made an impact.

"I got attached to them, and apparently, they got attached to me," Isard added.

Administrators said he's quite the gem, especially now when the district is experiencing a shortage of substitute teachers.

"He comes every day. He comes dressed up in his suit and his bowtie, and he's also serviced all of our students grades K-8," said Principal Amanda Jones.

The substitute is known for his classy attire enjoys teaching reading and math. He often shares his wartime stories with students as a naval junior petty officer aircraft carrier. He served in Vietnam for a little over a year.

"It was technically danger every day, but we were not the ones hit," Isard described. "We were the ones attacking people."

Since then, the substitute of now four years has held many careers, including being a banker, but he said being in the classroom is by far the best.

"It's just so great to know they appreciate what I've done here," Isard said.

Isard adds his passion for helping children goes back to his high school days. It was before the Civil Rights Movement.

He would collect books to give to underserved communities.

"I organized a book drive that created a library in Greenwood, Mississippi," he said.

The humble navy veteran risked his life for everyone's freedom. Now he gives his all to students in Philadelphia.

Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.