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Pa.'s Eyer earns award for teaching

December 24, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - It's not your same old home economics class, which is one reason Chambersburg Area Senior High School's Jo Anne Eyer recently received a 2006-07 Outstanding Teacher Award from the Shippensburg (Pa.) University School Study Council.

"I started out here in this room right after I graduated from college" filling in for another teacher on sabbatical, said Eyer, who now heads the district's Family and Consumer Science Department.

She was one of more than two dozen teachers from as many districts in south central Pennsylvania recognized by the council for their hard work, dedication, creativity and passion for teaching. The council is part of the university's College of Education and Human Services.

"When I came here 14 years ago, there were sewing machines, but now there's not much interest" in that skill, she said. There are, however, a great many other life skills students need to learn before heading out on their own, she said.

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Nutrition, cooking, shopping for food, doing laundry, cleaning and how to make and stick with a budget are among them, said Eyer, who lives in Falling Waters, W.Va. She and six other instructors in the department teach these skills at Chambersburg Area Middle School, Faust Junior High School and the high school.

"She's very, very student-centered," said Patricia Jacobs, an assistant high school principal. "As far as the programs, she always keeps them up to date."

Family and Consumer Sciences now includes a preschool program and a child development and parenting class at the high school, Eyer said.

Started a few years ago, the preschool program brings in 10 children ages 3 to 5 for a couple of hours a day, she said. "The students more or less take on the role of teacher" to the preschoolers, Eyer said.

"It's very similar to the courses they get if they go on to college," Eyer said of the child development and parenting class. "We cover everything from the birth of the child up to the age of 6."

Fashion merchandising is another new course for the department, teaching students retailing skills, Eyer said.

Eyer's career included three years in the Shippensburg Area School District and 14 years at Chambersburg Area Middle School before returning to the high school. Times have changed over 31 years, although the decor has not kept up.

The cooking classroom has a color scheme of bright pastels that would look more at home in the 1970s. The counters and cabinets are the same as when she started her career, and the faux window with a pastoral scene is unchanged.

The lives of students and faculty have changed, however.

"One thing we're trying to do is have a child-care facility in the new high school," Eyer said. "There's a real need," according to a survey of faculty members and district employees, she said.

A child-care facility also could be used by students, helping teenage mothers cut down on the absenteeism that prevents some from graduating, Eyer said.

"She works a lot of programs for single mothers or teenage mothers," said Jacobs, noting that Eyer is the coordinator for the Chambersburg Adolescent Parent Program

While what used to be called home economics has greatly changed, Eyer said the sewing machines have not completely disappeared from school district classes.

"I still think it's important, and we're going to keep it in the seventh grade," she said.

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