Meet the Teacher: Debbie Carew, Brandywine Schools

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Educators are perhaps the greatest population of unsung heroes in Berrien and Cass County. This school year, Leader Publications will publish a weekly spotlight featuring teachers throughout the district, giving the community a chance to get to know the hard-working individuals shaping their children’s lives. Throughout the next school year, their answers will be published in the newspaper that serves each school district.

Name: Debbie Carew

School: Brandywine Middle and High School and Brandywine Elementary School

Grades/subjects taught: second grade, first/second Multiage, K-6 Reading Specialist, eighth grade reading, elementary humanities

Where did you attend college? For my undergraduate degree, I attended both Olivet College and Hope College. I earned my master’s degree in teaching reading at Western Michigan University.

How many years have you been teaching? How many years have you been with your current school? Twenty-four years in education. This is my 22nd year teaching at Brandywine, but I have been at Brandywine an additional 13 years as a student. That makes 35 great years of being a Bobcat!

Why did you decide to become a teacher? Watching my mom and other members of my family be educators made it something worthy of doing.  Another formative experience was when, during my senior year in high school, my family hosted an exchange student from Indonesia.  She helped me realize that I was very good at explaining things at a basic level to her, and she told me I was the one who could explain things the best to her when she didn’t understand something.  I figured that this skill would come in handy when teaching others.

Outside of school, what do you enjoy doing for fun? I enjoy flower gardening, reading YA fiction, attending and performing in local musical theatre productions, traveling (even by myself), photography, and bird watching.

What is one thing your students may not know about you? I once got to sing with Kenny Rogers. 

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? Hermione Granger from the “Harry Potter” series is my favorite because she is a brilliant girl who is passionate about challenging injustice, a book nerd, and she is, essentially, the catalyst who turns the anti-Voldemort struggle into a movement rooted in the aspirations, urgencies, and power of young people. Her leadership is one of building power with others, rather than over them.  Hers is a leadership based in respect earned through years of building positive relationships, providing support and encouragement, and consistently acting in a principled way.

When you were a student in the grade you teach, what were your favorite hobbies? I enjoyed writing notes to my friends (we had special folding techniques), sleepover parties, listening to my cassette tapes, watching “Solid Gold” ( a TV show) every week, playing piano, drawing animals and people, and singing. 

How would your co-workers describe your teaching style and personality? My teaching style is very nurturing, caring, fun and creative. I am an enthusiastic learner myself, and I enjoy inspiring the curiosity and learning in my students and building positive relationships with the families I serve. 

Who is your biggest role model and why? My mom will always be my biggest role model.  She is overly generous, intelligent, kind, inspiring to others, passionate about her art and role as a teacher, has a strong character focused on social justice and equality, and is a mother who lets me be myself without criticism.

How has education changed in the last 10 years? Technology has had the largest impact on education in the last decade or so.  The positive side is that we have a larger network of resources to use in order to teach our students which helps keep them engaged and interested, and have easy access to information when they have inquiries about a topic that interests them.  The downside of technology is that it has changed their mental stamina.  As information comes to them  in smaller bite-sized chunks on the computer screen, having the mental stamina to get through a novel where the plot and characters are changing and growing becomes extremely challenging.  To just sit, read and comprehend a longer story is just not something many students are wired to do anymore.  Also putting their thoughts down without making them seem like a casual, informal text can be a painstaking process for many.  This makes my job as a reading teacher all the more challenging. 

One other change is an over-reliance on standardized tests for holding teachers and schools accountable. This is one trend in education that I hope will change.  Learning and becoming a good human being is so much broader than what can be measured on a standardized test. How can you test the formative relationships formed with students, which are just as important as the knowledge we impart?

What is your best advice to parents to help their child continue growing academically? Always encourage their curiosity and try to have daily conversations about the things they are learning at school and in their world. Also try to spend time talking about books or magazines you read.  Modeling reading as an enjoyable pastime is very important. 

If my students learn one thing this year, I hope it is… That they see themselves as a capable learner and that I am here to help them be their best selves.