Friday, August 24, 2001

New teacher beats first-day anxieties

Microbiologist finds challenge in high school classroom

By By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ERLANGER — Richard Dube had goosebumps as students filed out of his classroom Thursday.

        “I did the right thing,” he said. “I can't wait until tomorrow.”

        For 2,300 students in Erlanger-Elsmere Independent Schools in Kenton County, Thursday was the start of a new school year. For Mr. Dube, it was the start of a new career.

[photo] Richard Dube, a rookie teacher at age 44, faces his first science class.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        A rookie teacher at age 44, the Taylor Mill man started his first year in the classroom as a science teacher at Lloyd Memorial High School.

        “This is your first day in class, but it's also my first day in school,” he told his students. “I believe I can succeed at my new job if I apply myself and work at it. And I believe everyone in this class can succeed.”

        After leaving a 20-year career as a microbiologist in the brewing industry, the Canada native is not your stereotypical new teacher.

        “For me, it's a big deal, the beginning of a new life,” he said. “To grab all the stuff I've done for 20 years and hopefully be able to plant a seed of interest in science in the children.”

        Mr. Dube (pronounced Do-bay) is among a growing number of mid-career adults turning to teaching. With teacher shortages looming nationwide, schools are looking for ways to attract people to education, from signing bonuses to fast-track certification.

        He is one of the first participants in Northern Kentucky University's new graduate program aimed at drawing folks into teaching. He'll teach full-time at Lloyd by day on temporary credentials and take classes at NKU on Monday nights and Saturday mornings toward his official certification.

A new start

        After a restless night, Mr. Dube awoke early, arriving by 6:30 to prepare for his 7 a.m. earlybird class. (The class is for students who want an extra hour during the day for elective courses.)

        “OK, I'm nervous,” he said, moments before opening bell. “As I was pouring my orange juice this morning, I was shaking.”

    From paralegals to biophysicists to art gallery owners, Northern Kentucky University's new graduate program in teaching is attracting twice as many folks as expected.
   With 48 students this fall, the program is for people who hold undergraduate degrees in other fields but want to teach.
   Designed as one answer to the Tristate's growing need for teachers, the fast-tracked certification gets students their teaching credentials in two years rather than four years. Students have to have undergraduate degrees in the subjects they want to teach.
   The five-semester program is the only one of its kind in the Tristate. Students walk away with both their teaching certificate and a master's degree, said Joyce Fortney, master of arts in teaching degree program coordinator.
   Most classes are offered nights and weekends because students are allowed to be in the classroom on temporary certificates. Nearly half of this fall's students have teaching jobs in Greater Cincinnati.
        As students started filling the hallways, some familiar faces called out, “Hey, Mr. Dube. You're back,” recognizing him from his days as a substitute teacher last year.

        His anxiousness seemed to disappear as Mr. Dube shared his background with his classes, up front, that he's going to be learning along with them.

        “I will ask you to bear with me a little bit,” he said. “I might do some things that don't work.”

Brewing beginnings

        Originally from Quebec City, Quebec, Mr. Dube's first job was as a microbiologist with Molson Brewery in Montreal in 1980.

        Over the next 18 years, he and his family moved seven times as Mr. Dube took different jobs and made steps in his career as a brewmaster. They arrived in Taylor Mill in 1998, after Mr. Dube was transferred to the Boston Beer Co.'s brewery in Cincinnati.

        But after two years here, he grew restless.

        “I'd done it all,” he said. “Now what was I going to do for the next 20 years?”

        In search of a new challenge — one that wouldn't require yet another move — Mr. Dube pondered giving up brewing for the classroom. He had the science background and had always enjoyed the training part of his brewery jobs.

        Over the next several months, Mr. Dube and his wife of 15 years, Danielle Pare, talked a lot about teaching. He read about the shortage of science teachers and NKU's plans for a new graduate program in teaching.

        Mr. Dube left brewing in December. A few days later, he saw an advertisement from Erlanger-Elsmere Schools seeking emergency substitute teachers. He called the next day.

        He trained for three days in January and started filling in last spring. From middle school math to high school art, Mr. Dube substituted more than two dozen times in the district.

        “It went well,” he recalled. “I had a great time just helping kids.”

        Mr. Dube applied for NKU's new graduate program in April and started talking with Lloyd High about a science teaching position. He landed both.

        “Everything just fell into place,” he said. “Timing in life is everything.”

Family support

        Mr. Dube and his family live in Clover Meadow, a newer subdivision in Taylor Mill. Kim, 18, is a sophomore at NKU, and Kirk, 14, a freshman at Scott High School.

        All are supportive of Mr. Dube's new job, although they admit to some uncertainty.

        “Sometimes I think he's going to yank his hair out because he's not going to know what to do with the little girl sitting in the back twirling her hair and not paying any attention to a word he says,” Kim said.

        His family is confident he will succeed.

        “There are a couple teachers at every high school that everybody loves and everybody listens to,” Kim said. “I think that's going to be my dad.”


        The newest member of Lloyd's five-teacher science department, Mr. Dube will have six classes and 155 students, teaching integrated sciences and earth and space science.

        “He will be overwhelmed,” said Mary Lou Carter, chairwoman of Lloyd's science department. “His classes are large (about 30 students). His room will be a sea of kids, and they're mostly freshmen, which is challenging.”

        His first day had plenty of disruptions, but nothing too rattling.

        Mrs. Carter said Mr. Dube enjoys an advantage over most first-year teachers — his age. He's had other jobs. He's raised two children.

        But he also shares the same weakness as any new teacher — the unknown. Not knowing what teaching technique to use or how to capture students' attention.

        Mr. Dube's anxiety stems from his desire to do a good job.

        At the end of his day, Mr. Dube was already critiquing his first-day performance.

        Stand farther back from the front row to see all the students' eyes.

        Walk around the classroom more.

        Lighten things up more.

        “I want to be a good teacher,” he said, “but I also want to be a successful teacher in the sense that I want the kids to be successful. I want to open the kids' minds to science.

        “So far, so good.”

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