Friday, April 05, 2002

It's hectic, but he's focused

Teacher settling in, fighting feelings of panic

By Cindy Kranz,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

       Fourth in a series

        ERLANGER — Richard Dube is approaching the end of his first year of teaching, but he's hardly coasting to the finish line.

[photo] Richard Dube (right) and student Crystal Collett watch student Martin Murphy blow up a balloon during a science lab experiment.
(Michael E. Keating photos)
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        If he thinks about everything he has to do in the next month, he's afraid he'll panic.

        The 45-year-old Taylor Mill microbiologist-turned-high school science teacher has to complete coursework for four classes at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) by May 6. He's enrolled in a program that allows him to teach while obtaining a teaching certificate.

        “I took every single syllabus and looked at everything that's got to be done,” he said. “I made myself a calendar. I just don't know how I'm going to do it. Honestly, the amount of stuff left to do is a little bit overwhelming.”

        Mr. Dube is on spring break this week from his job at Lloyd Memorial High School in the Erlanger-Elsmere Independent Schools in Kenton County.

        During his time off, he's been grading student quizzes and portfolios, attending classes at NKU and planning. He fends off panic by vowing to take each task one step at a time, knowing the work will get done.

        He's also training for the Flying Pig Marathon on May 5, when he'll run half the marathon as part of a two-man team. Last month, he ran the 15K Heart Mini-Marathon. He wasn't thrilled with his time of 1:27:37, but an old injury slowed him.

    Richard Dube, 45, of Taylor Mill, has completed three quarters of high school — as a teacher. This Enquirer series, which began in August, follows Mr. Dube, a microbiologist who gave up a 20-year career as a brewmaster for a life in the classroom, through his first year teaching science at Lloyd Memorial High School in Erlanger.
        When he returns to Lloyd High School on Monday, the week will be spent practicing for the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS), Kentucky's standardized tests. Then, the tests will be administered the following two weeks.

        At Lloyd, students have started the fourth quarter. Mr. Dube is teaching four integrated science and two earth science courses.

        Teaching is easier this semester, he said, because he's better prepared.

        “I have a much better understanding of the core content and requirements of the Kentucky Education Department. I have a much better understanding of the curriculum and where I can get my information.

        “In terms of classroom management, I think it's getting better. There are some tough days. When you're better prepared, it makes it easier to be flexible for whatever is going to hit you that day.”

        He's tried new techniques in his classroom. He uses more discussion, encouraging students to comment on their peers' answers.

[photo] Mr. Dube warms up downtown for the Heart Mini-Marathon, which he ran March 24. He's also training for the Flying Pig Marathon on May 5.
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        “It's not a critique. It's not a personal attack. It's just a comment on what other students are saying to develop a little more conversation that way,” he said.

        More experiments are incorporated into classroom work. Last week, he did an experiment using balloons to illustrate the expansion of the universe.

        The students painted three dots on the balloons, inflated them and measured the distance between the dots. Then, they inflated them more.

        It seemed like such a good idea.

        “Balloons started flying all over the place,” he said. “When it came down to answer the question of importance, it passed over their heads, somehow. That's OK.

        “Between the first class that did it and the last class that did it, I made some adjustments. You try different things. What would be bad would be not to adjust. Right now, that's about all I can ask myself to do — just get better and better at it.”

        Mr. Dube feels more relaxed standing up in front of the students, but that's still a weekly battle.

        “Somehow, I'm still very nervous on Sunday night — all the time. I have a rough time on Sunday night. It's just like before a race. You look at the week like being in a race. Once you're in it, it's OK.”

        Martin Murphy, a 16-year-old ninth-grader, is in his integrated science class. He notices a difference in Mr. Dube's teaching style since the beginning of the year.

        “When he first started, all he did was give us notes,” Martin said. “Now, he does lab with us and jokes around with us. I think he's getting used to us. He's turned into a cooler teacher.”

        Danielle Hebbeler, another integrated science student, could tell at first that Mr. Dube was nervous. “Now he's fun,” the 16-year-old freshman said. “Before it was, "Oh, it's Mr. Dube' and now it's, "I love this class.'

        “I hate science, and I'm not good at it. I got on the A/B honor roll. Oh my gosh, I understand this stuff. He always asks if we've got questions, and most of the time we really don't because he just explains it so well.”

        Mr. Dube's classroom bulletin board bears the photo of Danielle's baby boy. She left school at the end of January and returned last week. Caleb was born Feb. 4, so Mr. Dube razzed her for not having the baby on his 45th birthday, Feb. 2.

        “She's a very smart kid,” he said. “She had already decided she was going to come back. There was no question. She came back just like she never left. She went back on track right away.”

        Mr. Dube was one of many Lloyd teachers who were supportive, Danielle said. He always asked how she felt, when the baby was due, and encouraged her to return to school.

        “I'm going to miss Mr. Dube next year,” she said.



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