As the middle child in a large family, Barbara McAvoy found out early that she had the makings of a peacemaker.
McAvoy used those traits, and her mother's advice, in making her career choice.
"My mom was a teacher's aide in the St. Marys Parochial School and felt that I had the patience and compassion for this career," she said.
Mom knew best. McAvoy is now a kindergarten teacher at Russell Elementary School and has carried her enthusiasm for children and education through her 30 years in the district.
McAvoy grew up in St. Marys, attending Sacred Heart Elementary School and graduating from Elk County Christian High School. She went on to Slippery Rock State College for her bachelor's degree in special education and elementary education, then to Pennsylvania State University where she earned a master's degree in developmental and remedial reading and a reading specialist certificate.
"I started teaching in the Warren County School District in 1978 at Sheffield Area Middle/High School and Sheffield Elementary School teaching learning support for six years," she said. "I then went to Lander Elementary School teaching kindergarten for several years and second grade for one year."
For the past eight years, McAvoy has been teaching kindergarten at Russell.
"I am married to Mike McAvoy and we have four children - Kathleen, 25, Mary Lynn, 23, Michelle, 20, and Bob, 12."
Q: Why did you become a teacher?
A: I became a teacher because my father encouraged my siblings and me to go to college. My mom told me many times that I would make a good teacher. Fortunately, I followed their advice.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about teaching?
A: I find many rewarding things about teaching! First of all, I have the best job anyone could ever have being surrounded by five- and six-year-olds who love you and tell you great things all day! I am also amazed each year that the children can read by the end of the year. I love that these children are so eager to learn, and that they truly absorb so much! I find it very rewarding to see the progress that they make by the end of their kindergarten year emotionally, socially, and academically. Since I have taught for thirty years, it is also very exciting to see many former students become successful in their various occupations.
Q: What frustrates you most about teaching?
A: It is not necessarily 'frustration.' It is the fact that you are faced with many challenges, and you always must keep the students' needs as the most important goal when dealing with these challenges.
Q: What advice could you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a teacher?
A: Make sure that you enjoy children, you are flexible, you have a sense of humor, you don't take yourself too seriously, and did I mention to make sure that you enjoy children? If you show children that you truly care about them and have their best interests at heart, then your students will thrive in the classroom setting.
Q: What career would you be in if you were not a teacher?
A: I always wanted to open my own Italian restaurant.
Q: If you could recommend one thing to parents to help their children in school, what would it be?
A: My recommendation to parents of young children would be to "read, read, read" to their children every day. When parents go grocery shopping, they should pick up a new book for your child to 'feed' their minds. Parents think nothing of throwing a bag of chips or cookies into their cart. They should allow their child to pick out a book on each grocery trip, and they will see great things happen.
Q: Teachers generally have a favorite funny or heart-warming classroom experience storywhat's yours?
A: One of the funniest stories is when I got an excuse from a student for not having his homework handed in. I kept the excuse because I thought it was hilarious. What was so funny was that it was true. The excuse reads: "Joe did his homework but our goats broke in the house and ate some of his work. If there is something missing, that's what happened." Now, that is priceless!
Q: Is there anything I should have asked you about but didn't?
A: Who has been influential in my teaching career? My uncle, Ralph Santo, was an inspiration and an example of what qualities make a good teacher. Also, I have always worked with the best principals, faculty, staff, and parents who help me every day. I would like to also thank Mrs. Carol Nelson who has come in faithfully every Tuesday for the past eight years to volunteer in my classroom.