High school gives teenagers the opportunity to become more independent in their studies and extracurricular activities, but that may be easier said than done when a student’s parent works in the same building.
Most teens wouldn’t be too keen on the idea of one of their parents working at their school, which is exactly what senior Tristan Buirley felt when he was younger about his dad, Fairmont math teacher Bill Buirley.
“I was afraid at first when I was in middle school because I thought my dad was ‘uncool’ and all the other kids would think he was ‘uncool,’ too,” the younger Buirley said. “But when I got to high school, I figured out that everybody thought he was the best teacher. It’s actually kind of nice having him work here because he can help me with all of my work.”
Freshman Aubrey Higgins feels like she has special privileges because her mom, intervention specialist Bambi Higgins, teaches at the school. “The teachers and principals already know me, and she always tells them how good of a student I am,” Aubrey said. She also likes the convenience of having her mom work at Fairmont. “I don’t have to ride the bus home, or if I need some lunch money, I can just run to her room.”
Her mom agrees. “I think she likes me working here or she wouldn’t stop by,” Mrs. Higgins said. “I think it’s a convenience for her.”
Julianne Priser, an intervention specialist and mother to sophomore Cody Priser, also thinks of it as a convenience for her son. “He uses my room as half a locker,” she said. “He is in each unit a lot so he stores his things here, and I’ll spread them out so he can just pick them up and keep going throughout the day.”
Mrs. Higgins thinks that the fact that she has a daughter at Fairmont benefits her students as well. “I think my students like it that I have a child here. They get to see me as a parent and a teacher.”
Senior John Harris, whose mom is the West Unit secretary, feels he has advantages as well. “If I go into a new class and the teacher already knows my mom, I’ll be on the teacher’s good side already,” he said. Harris added that his mom keeps him up to date with tips on colleges and upcoming events.
However, as with any situation, there are some drawbacks to having a parent work at the school. “He knows everything and anything I do,” said Tristan Buirley. “Any time I get a bad grade in one of my classes, my teachers will either tell him or he’ll get on Progress Book every five minutes.”
Juliet MonBeck, English teacher and mother to senior Indigo MonBeck, says the situation can present boundary issues. “Last year I had a problem with tattle-telling; I never expected that, and sometimes I got a little aggravated,” she said. “I had to have a talk with a couple of people about respecting Indigo’s privacy.”
Mrs. Priser says she had a couple of her son’s friends in class last year. “It was different because when they were younger, they would play in my backyard, and now five years later they were in my classroom,” she said. “It was interesting and fun to see them more grown up.”
Having a parent at the school can be a great opportunity for students when they need help with homework as well. “I’ve always helped Indigo with his English homework,” Mrs. MonBeck said. “I’m in a position to direct him and make sure he’s following up on things since he wants to be a writer.”
But while she’s happy she can help Indigo, Mrs. MonBeck stops short of wanting to have her son in her English class. “That would be too weird – for him and for me,” she said.
Having a parent at school can be awkward for some students at times, but it can also give them the opportunity to deepen their relationship.
“When I was a student here, my dad taught here and I loved it,” said Mrs. Priser. “I had always hoped I could teach at the high school where my son went because I had such a great time with my dad. I’ve learned when not to say hi and certainly ways not to say hi, but I think it’s fun to know what he’s going through. He’s a good, hard-working kid and he knows I’m here for him.”
(Staff Writer Rob Bowling and Editor-in-Chief Nikki Kelley contributed to this story.)