04/11/04 — Student becomes the teacher

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Student becomes the teacher

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 11, 2004 2:03 AM

Mount Olive Middle School's newest teacher is barely older than some of her students.

Pamela Braswell, 20, has been in college classrooms year-round since she graduated from Rosewood High School in 2001. In fact, she finished her requirements on Friday, April 2, and began her teaching duties on Monday, April 5.

Ms. Braswell received the county commissioners' teacher scholarship. Eight are awarded each year, with the stipulation that recipients teach in Wayne County for five years.

She attended Mount Olive College for most of the time, where she had a 4.0 grade-point average. She completed her teaching license requirements in middle school math and English at East Carolina University, but will receive her degree from Mount Olive in May.

She did her student teaching in the fall at Mount Olive Middle, where Harriet Meek was a colleague. Mrs. Meek, an eighth grade teacher, died a few weeks ago after a car accident on the way to school. Her classes are now being taught by Ms. Braswell.

"The classes have gone through a few substitutes and have been through several stages of grief," she said. Now they're in a stage of acceptance.

"They know I'm not her, but they need a teacher."

She said she is one of the first in her family to graduate from college, but has always had a love of learning and knowledge.

"I took that and decided I would like to educate others," she said.

This semester, she is teaching eighth grade English and social studies.

Admittedly, she had thought she would prefer teaching at the elementary level. But Mount Olive College did not offer that degree, so she opted to work with middle school students.

"I like helping the kids learn," she said. "And at this age, you can still help them to achieve and get to high school.

"I like the age group because they're independent, but at the same time, you can shape their future."

Ms. Braswell said that students often ask how old she is, which can be an advantage and a disadvantage.

"I have to dress older and be firm," she said. She may be only slightly older than some of them, but tries to maintain a "professional friendship."

"I don't yell, I say 'yes, ma'am' and 'yes, sir.' I give them respect; in turn they give me respect."

She said what she wants her students to see is that she's on their side and trying to help them.

Teaching is not without its problems, though. She said that before getting down to academics, there are other considerations, such as safety, the child's well-being and classroom management.

"The main discipline problem I have is them trying to talk when I'm talking," she said. "Most of the things I've had have been very minor, though, like them playing."

She said she takes being a good role model seriously and wants her students to look to her for guidance and leadership. She works to find ways to reach a child and motivate him.

"It's stressful to know what's going on with some of these children at home," she said. "You want to be able to save every child, and you know you can't."

It is also hard to get parents involved, although Ms. Braswell said the contacts she has made with parents have been good, and she feels fortunate to work in a small school.

"This is a small community," she said. "We're a close staff. You know all your students and what they're involved in."

It's also a small world.

Her supervisor, Richard Sauls, was named principal at Mount Olive Middle School earlier this year when Debbie Grady was promoted to head a teacher recruitment program at Wayne Community College. He called his new hire a prize and said it's a reunion of sorts, since he was also principal at Rosewood High School when Ms. Braswell graduated.