The public school teachers grabbing attention lately in Luzerne County give a black eye to others in the profession, risking lasting damage to perceptions of the whole bunch.
That’s unfortunate — and unfair.
The majority of school employees ably serve their students, imparting lessons, offering inspiration and serving as solid role models in and out of the classroom. They stick to academic schedules and keep order, all while being mindful of children’s and teens’ safety and web of social issues. The best teachers rise above circumstances, not only giving our youths an understanding of the subject material, but also guiding them to reach their potentials. To aspire. To achieve.
Those area teachers who mastered their craft and practice it proficiently each school day are probably the most disheartened, demoralized even, by what they’ve seen this winter in the news. Meanwhile, aspiring educators who possess teaching degrees but have yet to land a permanent position must be shaking their heads in disbelief.
Lisa Barrett, a former high school career-technology teacher, is prison-bound after her sentencing last week for embezzlement. The one time head of the Wyoming Area Teachers Union used its debit and credit cards for personal expenses to enhance her lifestyle with shopping and dining excursions. Family trips, too.
The Shavertown resident had pleaded guilty in October to taking more than $60,000. On Friday, Barrett, 48, wept as a judge sentenced her to a 12-month term, followed by two years of probation.
Elsewhere, two teachers stand accused in separate incidents of institutional sexual assault.
Both cases, one involving a male social studies teacher at Hanover Area Junior/Senior High School and one involving a female English teacher in the Wyoming Valley West School District, allegedly involved teenage boys whom the teachers met and seduced by virtue of working in the schools. The salacious details of the criminal complaints no doubt swept through the region’s faculty lounges. Likewise, the news stories and resulting rumors probably led to lots of confusion among students and disruptions in classrooms.
To a lesser extent, and for reasons having nothing to do with law-breaking, an elementary school teacher with the Wilkes-Barre Area School District recently sparked some unfavorable reaction for her decision to take an unpaid leave while appearing on ABC TV’s “The Bachelor.”
In the dating game show, billed as “reality,” dozens of women converge on a California villa to “date” and cavort with an eligible hunk, supposedly in an attempt to win his love and a possible marriage proposal. The local participant, a former Forty Fort resident, reportedly also frolicked in front of a camera for a newly surfaced racy video; she purportedly aspires to be an entertainer.
Fortunately, plenty of teachers across Northeastern Pennsylvania chose their occupation with a real sense of purpose and they practice it with dignity. For that, they elicit our constant admiration.
To the kindergarten teacher who solves disputes between two students with patience and dialogue, not fast discipline, thank you.
To the music teacher who supplies harmony to choruses and wings to students’ dreams , thank you.
To the algebra teacher who stays late to tutor, recognizing the formula for success can vary by student, thank you.
Thank you to every adult working in our schools who fully recognizes the wisdom behind these words attributed to American psychiatrist Karl Menninger: What the teacher is, is more important than what they teach.