April 7, 2005: Headlines: COS - Venezuela: Secondary Education: Lawrence Ledger: Venezuela RPCV Nancy Pitcher to retire June 30 after 33 years in education

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Venezuela: Peace Corps Venezuela : The Peace Corps in Venezuela: April 7, 2005: Headlines: COS - Venezuela: Secondary Education: Lawrence Ledger: Venezuela RPCV Nancy Pitcher to retire June 30 after 33 years in education

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Venezuela RPCV Nancy Pitcher to retire June 30 after 33 years in education

Venezuela RPCV  Nancy Pitcher to retire June 30 after 33 years in education

Venezuela RPCV Nancy Pitcher to retire June 30 after 33 years in education

LMS principal revels in giving students a fresh start

By: Lea Kahn, Staff Writer 04/07/2005

Nancy Pitcher to retire June 30 after 33 years in education.

Lawrence Middle School Principal Nancy Pitcher received a letter from a student a few weeks ago, thanking the principal for giving him a "fresh start" and pledging to prove to her that he could handle himself in an academic environment.

"The thing that makes me feel most proud is when I see a child make a turn-around for the good," Dr. Pitcher said. "This child was struggling and we talked to the teacher. He agreed to change. I helped a child see the need for change."

That child likely is one of the last students the 61-year-old principal may help, as she prepares to retire after 33 years in education. Dr. Pitcher, whose retirement takes effect June 30, has served as LMS principal for the past four years.

Unlike many teachers, Dr. Pitcher did not follow a direct career path into education. After graduating from high school in Minnesota, Dr. Pitcher worked as an executive secretary. Then, she and her husband joined the Peace Corps. The couple spent two years in Venezuela, where Dr. Pitcher taught home economics.

When the couple returned to Minnesota, Dr. Pitcher enrolled at the University of Minnesota as a Spanish major. She eventually completed her degree at Montclair State University and then embarked on a teaching career that took her to several school districts, landing in Lawrence in 2001.

After a five-year-stint as a Spanish teacher, Dr. Pitcher switched fields and became a guidance counselor. She spent the bulk of her career - 20 years - as a guidance counselor at the Hillsborough Middle School in Hillsborough Township, Somerset County. She also served as a vice principal at Morristown High School before taking the principal's job at LMS.

"I didn't like (working in a) high school," said Dr. Pitcher, a Richboro, Pa., resident. "High school is a different philosophy than middle school. High school focuses on a student's future and getting the student into college and then into adult life. Middle school is about the 'here and now' - the development of a child at this age."

By the time students reach high school they are mature and are "thinkers," but when children start middle school, they are developing their identity Dr. Pitcher said.

"You teach them to reason and how to be leaders and not followers," she said. "I find this age of discovery to be most exciting - to watch them move through stages. They start out as little children and become people. They are malleable at this age, and we can have a greater impact on their lives, their decision-making skills and the choices they make."

That philosophy was put to the test last year, as Dr. Pitcher struggled to find a way to put an end to bomb threats - mostly written on the bathroom walls - that emptied LMS while police searched for the bogus bombs.

The solution, which stirred controversy, called for a system of hall passes that allegedly limited the number of times that a student could use the bathroom each month. It followed a failed attempt to end the bomb-threat problem by canceling after-school activities until the culprits were found. Schoolwide assemblies also were held on the issue of bomb threats, including a visit by the Mercer County Sheriff's Department's bomb-sniffing dogs.

The hall passes - part of a new student management plan - listed "lavatory" on one side of the hall pass. The other side of the pass, which contained 15 spaces on each side, was left blank. The passes were never meant to limit the number of trips to the bathroom, Dr. Pitcher said. The policy is still in place, but the passes do not mention "lavatory."

"I learned a lot from that experience," she said. "So did the parents and the students. As ugly as it did get, I think we all learned how to work together better - parents, staff, administrators and students - so something good did come out of it. You have to approach people and ask for their help in solving a problem before making a decision."

Asked whether children have changed since she began her career, Dr. Pitcher said they are less respectful of authority, such as teachers. They believe that making their own decisions is the "norm," she said. It's part of an overall societal change in that society does not have respect for public education, she added.

Children also are more aggressive, perhaps as a result of their increasing exposure to violence, she said. They are more "physical," she said, adding that they consider shoving and pushing one another to be just "playing." While children have always fought, she attributed the more aggressive nature of it today to their exposure to violent video games that have de-sensitized them to it.

While Dr. Pitcher enjoys serving as LMS principal, she said she likes to occasionally take off her principal's hat and put on her guidance counselor's hat. Then, she talks to the seventh- and eighth-graders.

"My job is to help them become successful, and that's what I do," Dr. Pitcher said. "It's usually the most satisfying day that I have when I can work with a child. I relay the idea that 'I believe in you and I will give you a chance.' I believe in them and I want to show them they can make a change in their lives."

She continued, "From the day I went into the Peace Corps, it was the same kind of thing - to save the world, one child at a time. I translated that in public education. I think education is the most important job anyone can do, bar none. The future is our children."

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Story Source: Lawrence Ledger

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Venezuela; Secondary Education



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