Friday, June 25, 2004
Paula Ewers and Jim Trierweiler retire from Carlisle's middle school
A thumbnail sketch of her career: "I started teaching in Carlisle in the fall of 1991. I taught sixth grade language arts for my first six years, and eighth grade for seven years after that. Before coming to Carlisle, I had taught at schools in Lowell, Virginia, and Burlington. When I first completed my master's degree, I couldn't find a teaching position, so I tutored reading and test preparation for every grade, K through 12."
How she ended up in Carlisle: "I have a funny belief in fate. I think that things happen because they're supposed to. For two or three years before coming here, I tried to find teaching jobs in Westford and elsewhere. I'd never thought of teaching in Carlisle until a friend suggested that I apply for a position that was open here. At a professional workshop, I met Jim Trierweiler. I was so impressed with him, and with all the other faculty I met here. They all seemed so masterful at what they were doing, so forward-looking, so committed. I got the job the week before school started."
Why she loves teaching in the Carlisle Schools: "The beauty of this school system is that although we have a general curriculum and general skills we must teach at each level, we also have enormous freedom to develop curriculum, and developing curriculum is one of my greatest interests. It gives me the chance to be always learning something new. There's always an opportunity to add the novels and short stories that I find most meaningful to the existing reading list. I meet teachers in other towns who say, 'I have to teach All Quiet on the Western Front every year.' I would never want to be told exactly what books I had to teach. I love being able to bring the literature that I've enjoyed myself to my students."
What motivates her as a teacher: "My eighth graders amaze me with their ability to delve into profound questions. For example, we've discussed the theme of utopia, with questions such as: 'What is a just society? How do I find my place within this society? How do I live fairly and with respect to other people? How do I live out my humanity?' The level of discussion we have in class and their understanding astonishes me. Even students who say they don't like to do homework love to read and discuss ideas. They're just plain curious."
Unforgettable moments: "Students do or say or write things that make me think, 'I wish I'd done that.' To me, that's the supreme compliment to my students, when I look at something they've done and wish I'd done it. And that happens to me over and over. That's one of the thrills of teaching."
What she's going to do next: "I want to have time with my family, and I also want to go back and be a student. I dream of studying something I've never delved into before, like maybe Italian opera. A few years ago, I took a writing course and wrote some children's stories. The stories have been just sitting there; maybe now I'll have a chance to work more on developing them."
A thumbnail sketch of his career: Jim Trierweiler was hired in January of 1981 as an emergency replacement for a teacher who was in a serious accident and could not return to school. "Obviously the circumstances were unfortunate, but coming to Carlisle was a fortunate move for me. I moved here from Oregon, where I was the superintendent of a small school and then a classroom teacher. For the past six years or so, I've taught eighth grade only. Before that, I taught both sixth and eighth grade."
The lowest point of his 24 years in Carlisle: "One year, budget cuts were so severe that I had to teach seventh grade honors math along with two science courses. That was a hectic time, and morale was not so good throughout the school."
The many high points of the past 24 years: "Every year, the eighth grade is a fabulous group, and I've always felt very supported by the community: administrators, staff, parents. About nine years ago, I did the first Ecofair. Now we do it every year. It has made students much more aware of the environment around them. Many of these kids that I'm teaching are going to be leaders some day: the leaders of our state and local government, the leaders of our country. I like having the opportunity now to teach them the value of the environment."
How his teaching has changed since 1981: "We've kept the basic science curriculum the same over the past 24 years. My major goal is always to challenge the highest achievers. If you can't do that, it's a disaster for the students. Several years ago, [Carlisle resident and professional educator] Jon Saphier did some in-service training here that led to a new emphasis on team learning. By putting kids in groups of four, I can give them difficult problems that one student alone couldn't solve. Whereas one kid might give up on a really challenging question, when they're part of a team, they'll keep at it until they solve it. A good example is the sludge test that they do every year, where about a dozen materials are mixed and they have to separate each one out and identify it. They have to work together, using all the information they've learned all year and putting it into practice. It's a difficult test and they complain about it every year, but they always manage to do it."
What he's enjoyed with his students outside of the classroom: "I ran student council for many years, chaperoned nearly every dance, and coached basketball. I also go on the eighth-grade trip every year. It's a fabulous way to culminate their years at the Carlisle Schools before they all go in different directions for high school. Some of my favorite memories from our class trips include a cruise on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, a lot of different museums, the Superman Ride of Steel at Six Flags, and this year's visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. Before we got there, students were saying, 'This is going to be boring,' but when we got inside, they were riveted by the paintings."
What he believes sets the Carlisle schools apart: "The thing that makes me proudest of working in Carlisle is the fact that this district puts so much emphasis on civility that we actually have it as a school goal. I don't know of many schools that have it as part of their core values or grade it on the kids' report cards, which we do under 'citizenship.' Society has gotten more selfish over the years, and people aren't very patient. Carlisle has done a lot to hold the line on civility and try to improve the situation, which to me is very important."
What he's going to do next: "I'm going to continue the work I've been doing already as a consultant with the New England League of Middle Schools. I visit too many schools where science isn't fun for the kids. I want to do something about that, maybe some teacher training. I'd like to do some writing, have more time to read, and take better care of my garden. I also want more time to play tennis, sail and go fishing with my grandchildren."
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito