07/06/07 — Wayne County School Board recognizes Phyllis Bass

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Wayne County School Board recognizes Phyllis Bass

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 6, 2007 1:45 PM

Phyllis Bass has her own classroom at Charles B. Aycock High School, but she's not a teacher. She has helped teach courses ranging from German to Spanish to Latin to human geography to anatomy and physiology to psychology to computer programming, but she's never been certified in any of them. She's adept at troubleshooting the computers in her classroom, but has never been trained as a technician.

In many ways, Mrs. Bass -- the 2007 LEARN NC Facilitator of the Year -- is one of the most well-rounded faculty members at the school.

But she never set out to be.

More than 20 years ago, all Mrs. Bass, who has spent the last 30 years of her life working with children as a coach and church youth leader, really wanted was to get a full-time job that would keep her around her children while they were in school.

And so she started out as a substitute teacher and enjoyed that role for about 10 years.

But then, 11 years ago, she saw an opportunity that intrigued her.

Charles B. Aycock needed a facilitator for its distance learning program, so she applied -- and she thrived. In 1997 she was given her first honor as the LEARN NC Facilitator of the Year.

Since then she has seen a lot of change.

When she began, the classes were held over satellite links. Then three years ago they started to transition to online courses.

Today it's all done over the Internet, whether through audio and video clips or through streaming audio and video.

And it's her job, she explained, to make sure everything runs smoothly -- that the students are getting everything they need, that all the equipment is working properly, that the teachers are getting what they need from the students and that assignments are being graded.

"I make sure the kids stay on task. I check a lot of their work to make sure they have it. I do some grading and grade entry. I make sure they always have what they need," Mrs. Bass said. "I stay in contact with their teachers all the time, whether on the Internet or on the phone.

"Sometimes I think maybe I worry them too much."

But then, glancing down and smiling at her trophy, she added, "after this, though, maybe I didn't."

Still, she said, it's tough work -- even with only a maximum of 12 students in each block.

"It's not that many students, but sometimes I have as many as seven different classes going at one time," she said. "So it can be kind of mind-boggling sometimes and very overwhelming until you get used to everything.

"But of course every year something changes and it seems like I have to learn something new every year."

Things are going to change next year, too, when Wayne County joins the N.C. Virtual Public School -- a new online course program.

But that doesn't really matter.

Mrs. Bass is not going to trade her job. Even knee surgery in May couldn't keep her away for long, and while she was at home, she still tried to keep an eye on things.

"I love my job and I love my kids," she said.

Many of them take multiple semesters of the online courses.

"They know I'm always going to be there, and most of the time I have a very good relationship with my kids," she said. "Some of my students have gone on to be doctors, nurses, physicians' assistants, teachers or to take different kinds of business programs.

"This has let them take a lot of classes they wouldn't have been able to take otherwise."

It's also let her learn and do things she never thought she would have otherwise -- like Latin, in particular. She's even become the sponsor of the Latin and the German clubs.

"I never wanted to visit Rome before, but now after the Latin classes, I think I would love to," she said.

But more important, she continued, is the fact that through her own learning, she's become more than just a facilitator. In many ways she is her students' teacher.

"I feel like, especially with the Latin and the other classes I can help them with, that I am," she said.