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Educator for a Day: See what it's like

April 27, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

The students giggled nervously as they listened to the retired Air Force pilot's directions.

"Take out your colors," he instructed as he guided the students through the process of making a spinner to help learn about probability.

Heywood Bell served for 20 years in the Air Force, including a tour of duty in Vietnam. However, this was the first time he's faced what he's facing today — school kids.

He had never taught and has not been in a classroom since he was in school himself.

Bell spent Thursday morning shadowing Caroline Jaime, a third-grade teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, as part of the El Centro Chamber of Commerce's Educator for a Day program.


Always willing to use volunteers, Jaime assigned Bell to run one of her math stations and he studiously reviewed the instruction she'd left with him before the class started.

"I'm not nervous now," he said, but he thought he might be a little nervous when he started teaching the lesson.

The "Educator for a Day" program was formerly called "Principal for a Day." The program's name was changed in the late 1990s, said Olivia Ordona, community events coordinator with the chamber.

"Everyone who's gone has always enjoyed it," Ordona said, adding some participants volunteer for the next year's "educator for a day."

Ordona said some participants have "adopted" a school after volunteering for the program.

"Basically it's for a business person to go to the school and see what the school is doing," Ordona said.

Retired from the Air Force and the state Employment Development Department, Bell was simply looking for something to keep him busy when he heard about the program.

"I wanted to find something to do," he said.

He has recently joined the American Association for Retired People, and after training in San Diego and Los Angeles, will be one of the few AARP volunteers in the Imperial Valley.

After teaching the lesson, Bell commented he thought it went "OK."

"She (Jaime) is really pushed for time. She just moves from one thing to another … without even time to think," said Bell.

Jaime welcomes volunteer help and encourages parents to come into the classroom as often as they can.

"It's their class. These are their kids," she explained, adding, "If you come in here, you will work."

Happy to utilize Bell as much as possible throughout the day, Jaime handed him a teacher's edition language arts book and assigned him to go over the answers to the students' homework with the students.

Bell was impressed with the students' understanding of the lesson.

"It was amazing," he said. "They all knew the answers."

He noticed many similarities to the military, mentioning the teacher's quick decision-making ability, classroom discipline and the fast-paced learning environment as a few examples.

"Things change so fast in the classroom … it's amazing the kids' minds can grasp what they're doing. They're so busy," he added. "Teachers don't even have time for a break."

"Stress," he said, describing his impression of his impression of a teacher's life is like.

"It's gotta be something like that. Not only did she work all day, she went home and graded papers," he said.

Bell was most impressed with Jaime's attention to individual students.

"She has so many classes in a day and she knows each student," he said, adding the day's biggest impression on him was the teachers' concern for the students.

"Teachers have concern on an individual basis. They take time to answer questions and they don't block out the children," he said, "There is a concern. You can see that they have a deep concern for the students."

Bell said his impression of teachers has changed and added he would like to observe or volunteer at the high school level as well.

"I'll have a lot more respect for teachers after today; their commitment and their requirements," he said.

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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