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Boonsboro High French teacher to travel and relax after retirement

Barbara Steiner has 41 years worth of memories from teaching in Washington County Public Schools

July 08, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Retiring Boonsboro High School French teacher Barbara Steiner stands before a cloth map of France in her former classroom. The map was hanging in the classroom when she began her BHS career in the 1970s.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO — The first time Barbara Steiner plugged her tape recorder in at the old Boonsboro Middle School, she blew out the electrical circuit for half the second floor, including her class.

For the past two decades, her French II students were rewarded at the end of the week with a 10-minute episode of “Tele Francais,” a French-language television show featuring a talking pineapple.

“The kids enjoyed watching those episodes,” Steiner said.

Steiner has 41 years worth of memories from teaching French in Washington County Public Schools, including the French food students made and brought to class.

She retired July 1, having spent the past 35 years teaching French at Boonsboro High School. That’s long enough that, during the past several years, she has taught the children of former students.

“I enjoyed teaching, but my husband has been retired a couple of years. It’s time to go on and try to look for other things to do,” said Steiner, 62, who lives in Frederick, Md.

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She also spent the past five years teaching French at Boonsboro Middle, which has a magnet program for world languages.

While teaching involved a lot of work and preparation, Steiner said she liked watching the students’ French skills progress through the grades.

There also was the challenge of the unexpected.

“Every day is different, because every day you have the interaction with the kids,” she said.

Her own high school experiences led to her teaching career.

As a Catholic high school student in Pittsburgh, Steiner said she enjoyed the mandatory foreign language classes. She dropped Latin her sophomore year, but continued taking French because she enjoyed learning about French history and culture, including French paintings and movies about Paris.

She went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania planning to major in liberal arts with a focus on languages, but switched her major to secondary education because of better job prospects in teaching, Steiner said.

She said she earned certifications in French and Spanish.

The summer between her sophomore and junior years in college, she participated in a University of Oklahoma program in which she studied French at the University of Grenoble in southeastern France.

She learned about Washington County Public Schools through the school system’s recruiting efforts at Pennsylvania colleges.

Steiner started working for the school system halfway through the 1971-72 school year, she said. Her first two years involved some driving, as she taught French at four middle schools: North Potomac, Smithsburg, Cascade and the old Boonsboro Middle, which was on the hill next to the current Boonsboro campus. The building that now houses Cascade Elementary School used to be a combination elementary and middle school.

Then she taught French and seventh-grade language arts at North Potomac Middle until the school system discontinued its foreign language program at middle schools and she got a job at Boonsboro High, she said.

In addition to continuing the French program at Boonsboro High, Steiner said she started the high school’s Spanish program in the late 1970s. After a few years, the course load increased and another teacher was hired in the early 1980s to handle the Spanish classes, she said.

Steiner didn’t accompany students on spring break trips to France, but was a chaperone for a 2005 trip to Quebec City, Canada, where students got to see historic places and put their French to use in the mall.

“They had to fend for themselves if they wanted to buy stuff,” she said.

In addition to teaching foreign languages, Steiner was the senior class adviser for 20 years, and coached Boonsboro High’s Odyssey of the Mind team in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The team’s creative problem-solving skills led it to become state champ in the academic competition in 1990, and the group went to the world championship at the University of Tennessee, she said.

Steiner’s husband, Dennis, retired two years ago from a job with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and the couple wants to do other things, she said.

They plan to travel and relax, and Steiner said she will spend more time with her 88-year-old mother, Helen Janus, who still lives in Pittsburgh.

There also are some painting and remodeling projects the couple wants to take on at home.

“The eternal spring cleaning. Forty years of spring cleaning,” Steiner said.

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