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The Reflective Teacher:

About Gail Beyrer

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In an interesting turn of events, I am teaching in the same town where I began kindergarten more than 25 years ago. After graduating from a very small high school on Long Island, New York, I attended Salisbury State University in Maryland. I went there with the intent of majoring in English, then added secondary education as a concentration.

When I graduated, I decided to come back to New York to try to find a job in the New York City School System. I was unsure of how to navigate the Board of Educations intimidating certification process, however, so I decided to look for other options.

I signed up for two years of service with AmeriCorps, a program similar to the Peace Corps, but located in the United States. During my time with AmeriCorps, I made contacts that eventually enabled me to find a teaching position in an elementary school in Washington Heights, Manhattan. I had decided that elementary school was a better fit for me than secondary school, although I still love literature!

After two years teaching in upper Manhattan, I found myself at a fundraiser, being introduced to administrators from my hometown district by my former first grade teacher! Luckily, my tiny town had a few openings because of teacher retirements, and I was able to join the staff at Rhame Avenue Elementary School -- reducing my commute and increasing my salary!

Rhame Avenue Elementary is in East Rockaway, New York -- a town one square mile in size. Although there has been a slight increase in the diversity of the district during the last ten years, it is primarily a white middle class area. Growing up here, I felt that this was a very sheltered suburban town, and my travels since only have enforced that belief.

At Rhame Avenue, we have about 60 students per grade level -- which includes two general education classes and one self-contained class. The average class size is 25 students. In addition, our school houses the special education population for both elementary schools in the district. This is my second year teaching at Rhame and I am constantly running into people with whom I grew up. Their reactions are varied as I tell them I am a fourth grade teacher at my alma mater!

Article by Gail Beyrer
Education World®
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01/07/2003