The New and the Old: The Changing Teacher Generations; A Look at the English Department
This is the first installment of a series on the faculty changes in each department – teachers and support staff coming and going.
Carol Baldock, English ITL
At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, beloved Allderdice English teacher Carol Baldock will retire. Baldock, who has lived in the Pittsburgh area her whole life, graduated from Clairton High School, attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and received her graduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been teaching for 35 years and has been working in the Pittsburgh Public School system since 1988 when she was assigned to Allderdice. Before that, she taught at Fox Chapel high school for 11 years and at Park Terrace Middle School in the East Allegheny district for 1 year.
Baldock’s decision to retire was influenced by changes instigated by the Pittsburgh Public Schools, such as the new Instructional Teaching Liason description, the restrictions on the curriculum, and the increasing emphasis on standardized tests. Starting next year, the ITL will be a district-wide position, which involves a half-day of teaching and a half-day of observing teachers in different schools and writing professional development plans for them. This is different from the current position, which requires teachers such as Baldock to teach four periods a day and observe teachers within the school.
Since she started working at Allderdice 23 years ago, Baldock has taught thousands of students and seen countless changes in administration and faculty. “When you teach,” she said, “You carry a million little memories with you. You never know at the time if you have helped someone, made a memory for someone. But when you hear from them again and when you know that it’s true, that you have done that, it’s wonderful.”
Baldock has tentative plans for her retirement years but is not sure of anything. “I had planned to take little trips with my husband, but it’s different now that he has passed away. I may do some volunteer work. I’m not sure.” Whatever she does, wherever she is, the Allderdice students will most certainly miss her smart, lighthearted humor and clear love of teaching.
Although there are quite a few new faces in the English department this year, one new teacher may be a familiar face to some students. A recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Jennifer Giarrusso received her Master of Arts in teaching last year after completing her MAT (Masters and Teaching) internship at Allderdice under Carol Baldock, English ITL.
Giarrusso always knew she wanted to be a teacher, but she originally thought she would teach biology. However, she later realized her strengths in writing and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a B.A. in creative nonfiction writing. It was after teaching English as a foreign language in Prague, she said, “I knew that as an English teacher, I would be able to both write and teach.”
With three Pittsburgh Public schools hiring English teachers last year, Giarrusso was glad to get a position at Allderdice. “My dad graduated from here in 1968, and I really enjoyed my time here last year, so Allderdice was my number one choice,” she said.
This year, Giarrusso teaches English 2 and Acting 1 classes. “Teaching all these different kids is really awesome, even though I feel busier and have to get into my own routine here,” said Giarrusso. “I’m just so excited to be working in such a great department of new and old teachers because it’s clear that we all care about our students, and I hope to continue to build on that as a teacher here.”
Giarrusso hopes that ultimately, her students will enjoy the class and find it fun. “I hope I can change their mind about English if they didn’t like it before, and I really just want to help my students improve,” she said. “Even though I learned so much from my internship experience with Ms. Baldock last year, there’s always something new to learn.”
Catherine Tighe is a former student teacher who has returned to Allderdice for the first year of her teaching career. Tighe, hired after Angela Mazza’s sudden departure, was pleased with the opportunity to come back since being a student teacher in April.
Tighe is adjusting well to the transition from student teacher to teacher, thanks in part to already being familiar with the building and some of the students. Of course, now she has to deal with situations alone as a teacher, but fortunately the English department and the rest of the Allderdice staff have been very welcoming and helpful – a difference, Tighe said, from some of the other schools she has experienced.
Tighe notes that she has adopted a lot of methods from her former host teacher, Charles Long. Such methods include “making sure that I clearly communicate the objectives of the day, having students formulate their own discussion questions about texts, and having directions for activities written on handouts and/or the overhead because I find myself repeating directions a lot!”
Tighe reminds herself to focus less on how she is doing as a teacher, and more on how the students are doing, as she learned in graduate school. She also wants to make sure her students know she is available outside of class. The Foreword wishes her luck on her first year of teaching.
Amy Galloway-Barr may be new to Allderdice, but she is not new to the school district. A graduate of Pittsburgh Perry High School, Galloway-Barr was inspired to become a teacher by her mother at a young age. Galloway-Barr received a BA in English from the University of Pittsburgh before completing her National Board Certification to take a position in Richmond, Virginia before returning to teach in the Pittsburgh Public School district.
Galloway-Barr taught at Pittsburgh Faison in Homewood last year and at Arsenal Middle school prior to that. She came to Allderdice this year as part of the Promise Readiness Corps. “I was glad to come to Allderdice, even though it will be my first year teaching high school students, because I know it’s one of the best schools in the district,” Galloway-Barr said.
Galloway-Barr teaches two Reading 180 classes to help freshman and sophomores reach the proficiency level of their peers. “Even though it’s more challenging to have to prep for three different subjects – Reading 180, English 1, English 3 – compared to teaching one middle school grade level, I look forward to teaching a more diverse, mature group of students here,” she said.
“I just hope that my experience as a Pittsburgh public school graduate will help me relate to my students and their own high school experiences. I wasn’t the best student, either, but I still graduated college in just three years. I want to show my classes that even if they aren’t the best students, they can achieve so much once they put their mind to it,” she added.
One of four new English teachers this year, Erica Tipton is part of the new generation of teachers at Allderdice who bring new, young, and fresh perspectives to their jobs. Tipton is currently teaching English 1 and will be one of the debate team coaches this year. A native of Pittsburgh, Tipton graduated from Ambridge High School and attended the University of Pittsburgh for her undergraduate years. She graduated from New York University with a teaching degree in 2006. She returned to Pittsburgh to teach at Hillel Academy in Squirrel Hill, and then applied to teach in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Tipton did not decide to become a teacher until her senior year in college. At that time, her sister’s overly-ambitious third-grade teacher invited all college-age siblings of her students to come in and talk about what college was like. “It was while I was talking when I realized I actually enjoyed talking to these attentive little kids. I hadn’t done much public speaking before that.” It was that day, Tipton says, when she realized she wanted to teach. However, since her passion was literature and she knew it was only offered in high schools, she decided to go into secondary education.
She is enjoying teaching so far and is optimistic about the year. “In the future, I hope to still be teaching in Pittsburgh,” she said. Meanwhile, in her free time, Tipton likes to exercise, watch movies, chat with her four sisters, and spend time with her husband and dog.
The following English teachers retired before the start of the 2011-2012 school year:
The Foreword wishes them luck in retirement!