One teacher, a thousand students, more than five decades in the classroom add up to 'an incredible ride'
When I began this article, I wanted to write about my second retirement from teaching. I was going to share my beautiful memories of the 1,000 students I have taught.
I wanted to talk about the fantastic field trips, classroom drama productions, learning about local history, and using the Holland Land Office Museum as a textbook. I was about to begin to expound on those treasured memories when my train of thought took me to what it was like to be a teacher for over five decades.
It was 1972; I was a lucky college graduate to have a teaching job. I was a young unmarried woman and my maiden name was Anne Marie Peca. It was a time of miniskirts, long hair, and the Viet Nam War. You just left your college and were entering your classroom with so many new things to learn.
You had to hand in a lesson plan in advance for the administration to review, learn how to set up your classroom, learn your students' names, spell them, and locate the faculty bathroom. In your first year of teaching, you learned right along with your students.
Everything was new, and it was so exciting and overwhelming.
You had to know where to find films for your filmstrip projector and how to thread a 16 mm movie. If you needed copies for your students, you made and ran off a ditto on a ditto machine.
You never slept the night before the first day of school, no matter how many years you taught.
My first job was at Wolcott Street School in LeRoy (in 1972, inset photos above and below). I have so many treasured memories from my five years of being on their faculty.
My next teaching adventure was being a nursery school teacher at the YWCA. This allowed me, now Mrs. Starowitz, to teach but also be home with our daughters.
In 1985, I was hired to be on the faculty of the Batavia City school system. I spent the next 34 years on their faculty as a teacher and then as a substitute teacher.
I ended my career this year as a teacher at St. Joseph Regional School, where I graduated from eighth grade in 1964.
Over the years, teachers were required to change with the times. Many innovations such as teaching strategies, behavioral plans, grade-level subject changes would be introduced, and as a teacher, you were mandated to add them to your curriculum.
As far as technology, a teacher could now have a cassette tape player instead of a record player, and possibly one computer in the classroom using floppy discs.
Later on, there were groups of computers in a classroom, and today most children have a Chromebook as their personal computer.
There was a new classroom configuration called the multiage classroom, where you would have two classes in the same room. There was also looping where you take your class from one grade level to the next.
The Education teacher needs has also changed over the years. There is so much a young teacher needs to do before they have a classroom.
There were so many beautiful memories as a teacher, but there were also tragic memories. The saddest memory was losing a student and attending the funeral. There are never any words for those tragedies.
On Jan. 28, 1986 my fourth-grade class watched Christa McAuliffe, a teacher, go into space to die in an explosion on the NASA space shuttle "Challenger."
I taught through the Viet Nam War, Persian Gulf War, Iraq War, war in Afghanistan, and the 9/11 terrorism attacks. I taught children how to behave in a fire drill, evacuate a building, and practice a lockdown drill. This past year, I taught 18 students sitting 6 feet apart wearing a mask — socially distanced learning during the coronavirus pandemic -- so many changes.
The one thing that is a constant is how many hats that a teacher wears. Yes, you have a curriculum of what to teach, but you have to earn your student's respect before you can teach.
They are so intuitive; they know if you care about them. At times you are a parent, a nurse, and a therapist. We wear these hats proudly, and today my hat is off to all the excellent teachers I have had the pleasure of working with over the years. They indeed are heroes. I love this saying, "If you can read, thank a teacher!"
I can't end this without mentioning all the beautiful children I have taught over the last five decades. Those 1,000 students have left an imprint on my heart. To those students, thank you for giving me a lifetime of cherished memories. It has been an incredible ride.
"The greatest sign of success for a teacher...is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.' "
-- Maria Montessori
Two inset black and white images above are from O-At-Kan LeRoy Yearbook 1972.
Photo below, Mrs. Starowitz's last class -- from St. Joseph Regional School -- in a teaching career spanning more than five decades.