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Students look to Norma Gaunt for more than lessons

June 07, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Editor's note. This is the last in a monthly series for the 2003-04 school year highlighting excellent educators in Washington County elementary schools.

scottb@herald-mail.com

Students in Norma Gaunt's second-grade class at Maugansville Elementary School don't just see her as a teacher. They also see her as a fashion leader, she said.

If she wears a bracelet, some of the students will start to wear the same kind of bracelet, she said. The same is true for clothes and shoes, including the time she wore sandals and noticed some of the students began wearing sandals, too.

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"They are very observant. You have to be on your best behavior," she said.

Students get recognition for everything from good behavior to having clean desks as Gaunt tries to find a way to reward each student every school day, she said.

Gaunt, 61, has taught for 27 years in Washington County public schools - the last 24 at Maugansville - after working as an instructional assistant for five years.

Although she is retiring this month, Gaunt said she might work in the future as a substitute teacher.

She has taught at Maugansville so long she is teaching children of former students, she said.

She likes teaching second-graders, she said.

"They are still honest. They are still kids. They are not playing games," she said.

Gaunt said one of the most important parts of her job is to make sure students know they can talk to her.

"I like when the light bulb goes off and you can tell they have learned something," she said. "I like the children as people. I think I am a good listener. I like to listen to what they have to say and then go from there."

During her years of teaching, she has noticed changes in students. There are fewer shy students, she said.

"They are more aggressive, but I think they are needier," she said.

Students want someone to listen to them. If nobody does that, it can result in behavior problems, she said.

The hardest part of her job is working with students' different levels of learning, she said.

Her principal thinks highly of Gaunt.

"Norma has touched the lives of many children and has given them the skills necessary to be successful in school and in life," principal Dale Garlitz said.

Gaunt's favorite subject to teach is math. Students in second grade are doing multiplication and division and will go to the chalkboard when they are called upon, she said.

"They go to the board and they explain to the class how they got the answer. Once they can do that, then they got it," she said.

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