From the middle of July on, the ads scream “back to school.” We are reminded that the time is fast approaching when kids will be returning to the classrooms.
Parents scramble to gather the clothes, shoes and other items on their children’s lists. But there is another side to the back-to-school story — the time that the teachers spend preparing for their classes.
Samantha Hubley, a new sixth-grade English teacher at Bellefonte Middle School, said, “I went to our career day in second grade dressed as a hairdresser. During the day, I looked up at the teacher and thought, ‘I want to be like her.’”
Hubley grew up in Oxford, about 35 minutes outside Lancaster, and obtained her degree in middle-level English education from Penn State.
“I’ve been dying to get in here and work,” she said about her classroom. Her plans had been postponed because the floors had to be finished, but now she’s able to prepare her room for the first day of school on Monday.
Hubley is a picture of enthusiasm. She said there would be entire class activities, as well as smaller group work during the new semester.
“There is a push to make grammar a bigger deal,” she said, “but we also read and study some good books, such as ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ ‘Where the Red Fern Grows’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables,’ to name a few.”
The most important things, according to Hubley, are to build relationships with students and to exercise patience in dealing with them.
As the sixth-grade English teacher, she stays in her room and the students come to her. She will teach four English classes and skills classes, as well as supervise a tutorial.
The new band teacher at Bellefonte High School is Caleb Rebarchak. He is a 2009 graduate of Penn State and earned his master’s in band conducting in 2012.
“I worked with all the bands during graduate school — the concert band, volleyball band and volunteered with the Blue Band,” said Rebarchak. “I would like to continue the traditions that have been part of the history at Bellefonte, and in time, add more twists of my own.
“I joined (former band teacher) Mr. (Jay) Zimmerman in May and tag-teamed with him through the end of the year to learn from him before he retired. (The band) practiced, as well as had performances, during the summer. We (were) at the Grange Fair on the 21st of August and (will be) at the first football game on Aug. 24.”
Rebarchak will direct all the bands, from marching band, which is an extracurricular activity, to concert band, a class that meets during the school day.
Alexandra Davenport is in her third year as a fourth-grade teacher at Ferguson Elementary, and she also appeared excited at the prospect of another school year.
Asked when she knew she wanted to be a teacher, she replied, “Ever since I played school with my sister. I gave her detention a lot.” Her sister is a senior at Penn State studying art education, so apparently Davenport caught the teaching bug, too.
Davenport grew up in the Poconos region of northeast Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Penn State and did her intern year in the same room she now manages.
“The most exciting and rewarding thing to me is watching how much they grow and change during the year,” she said.
The first thing Davenport had to do to set up her room was unpack all the materials she had to get off the floor for the summer.
“I try to remember what worked well last year and how I can rearrange for greater ease for the students,” said Davenport. “I’m happy to have these new books and shelves that the State College School District made possible through curriculum money. Having to make room for books is a great problem to have.”
The first few days of in-service duty for teachers are similar. There are faculty meetings and updates on curriculum, but, Davenport said, there still will be a little time to work on her room, too.
“Really, it’s never really done and there is always more you can do,” she said. “You try to make the classroom a home away from home.”
Emma Cousins is a first-time teacher who graduated from Bucknell University in May 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. She will be a kindergarten teacher at Our Lady of Victory Catholic School and begins her first day with students Monday.
Cousins grew up in State College, and said she thought about becoming a teacher in middle school as she played school with her younger sister.
“I made up games and exercises to help her with math and reading,” she said. “I became more certain about teaching (while a student) at State High.
“I am excited, but nervous,” she said about her first teaching position. “I thought I wanted to teach first or second grade, but I don’t think I’ll really know until I do it.”
Cousins has been concentrating on classroom management details.
“The first day is about routines and the rules for the room, and rules about using the bathroom,” said Cousins. “I will assign seats, even on the carpet. After a week or so, I will move the kids to new seats. By moving them around, you learn which students can work well together and which ones distract each other.
"I try to make the room homey, with little areas designated for activities and bright colors throughout.”
Editor’s note: Emma Cousins is the granddaughter of Centre County Gazette correspondent Connie Cousins.