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Teacher of 26 students wears many hats

January 28, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

Editor's note: This is the sixth in a continuing series of stories exploring the workings of a modern-day classroom. The Herald-Mail is spending parts of the 2007-08 school year visiting with and writing about a fifth-grade classroom at Fairview Elementary School in the Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District. For today's story, staff writer Jennifer Fitch shadowed teacher Bobbi Blubaugh for a day earlier this month.

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - She's the voice of J.K. Rowling's Hermione.

She's the distributor of Band-Aids for paper cuts.

She's a referee, a listener, an interior decorator, a source of knowledge and the lady with neat cursive writing.

It's within these roles and many more that Bobbi Blubaugh is the fifth-grade teacher for 26 children.

"The key word is flexibility, of which I have sometimes more than others ... to go from a disciplinary role to the nurturing side of me, the more positive one. That's something that grows with you as you become a veteran teacher," Blubaugh said.

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Blubaugh, who is in her fourth year with fifth grade, has a teaching career that spans more than two decades.

So, is there anything you don't like about Mrs. Blubaugh?

"Nope."

"Nothing."

The responses were simple from Zachary Wolford and Kyle Ebersole. Gaylin Leizear simply shook her head "no."

"She's fair. ... You ask and she listens to your ideas," Hannah Rowe said.

Blubaugh started the last day of the second marking period, Jan. 17, like most. The children filed into the colorfully decorated classroom 45 minutes after the teacher arrived.

She checked their homework signatures, and then questioned why some coats were on the floor and not the proper hooks. Blubaugh held up the offending jackets and identified the owners.

"We've been having coat issues," she said.

Math matters

After attendance was taken, Blubaugh switched gears to administer timed tests on multiplication facts. The children requested the daily exams using a suggestions, questions, concerns and comments system called "the parking lot."

The students hovered over the tests before Blubaugh gave them the cue to flip the papers and begin.

"Remember helpful hints like to do the ones you know first. Don't erase. Scratch out because it takes less time," said Blubaugh, whose favorite part of the day is math.

The foray into math continued as Blubaugh questioned why so many mistakes were made on the fractions test administered by the previous day's substitute teacher. She reviewed how to add and subtract fractions.

"Just to let you know, I've started to grade the math tests. So that you have a good weekend, I won't give them back today," she teased.

The math lesson continued with references to other areas of study, like mention of antonyms and synonyms. Blubaugh also provided her own tips, such as reminding the students that the letters m and o start the word, mode, and could stand for most often. The mode is the item in a series of data that appears most often.

"Some of the times when you're doing math problems, she pulls out jokes," Kyle said.

Energetic and funny

He and Zachary described their teacher as energetic, funny and exciting.

Dakota Green came up with one word to describe his teacher: nice.

Blubaugh, who graduated from Waynesboro Area Senior High School in 1977, has a planning period each morning when the children are in gym, music or art class. She supervises recess before eating lunch for half an hour.

"Being an elementary teacher especially, there's no downtime. You're constantly thinking of what's next and planning ahead," Blubaugh said.

Her afternoon focus is on reading and writing. A favorite portion of the day for the children is Blubaugh's time spent reading aloud.

"She's reading us some Harry Potter, which I really like," Russell Jones said.

"She's a really good storyteller," Sierra Robertson said.

Hannah agreed with Sierra's assessment, and together they said Blubaugh uses inflection when reading and can make her voice "go up and down."

At the end of the school day, Blubaugh ensures that all is calm on the buses before she sits down to grade papers and prepare for the next day. She then fills a bag with her own homework - grading papers, filling out report cards and planning in the late evening.

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