Spotlight: Sto-Rox teacher recalls 53 years with the district
Name: Sherine Raymond
Sherine Raymond has been either a student or a teacher with the Sto-Rox School district for 53 of its 55-year existence.
A McKees Rocks resident, Raymond graduated from Sto-Rox High School in 1977 and went on to get her teaching degree. Having fallen in love with the school she graduated from, she decided to come back in 1981 to kickstart her teaching career at the elementary school as a second-grade teacher. Most of her career has been spent at the elementary teaching kindergarten or first grade. She’s also spent summer months acting as a summer school teacher.
G2.0: You have been part Sto-Rox for 53 years. What are some of your fondest memories as a student?
Raymond: I remember walking to Wilson School every day, going home for lunch or to Holy Ghost on Fridays for perogies. Also, I remember playing kickball with Mr. Baldasare at recess. At the middle school – it was walking up all those steps! High School was all fun — chorus, games, Friday nights with friends. Walking up and down Broadway and meeting at Eat n' Park.
G2.0: Why did you decide to go into teaching?
Raymond: I knew teaching was the right profession. I loved working with the kids.
G2.0: Tell us about some of your memories as a teacher?
Raymond: Every year is a great memory. I love watching the spark in my kids’ eyes when the skill clicks, I love hearing them read, I love seeing how they have grown and then seeing them graduate.
I had the opportunity to work with one of the best principals, Ray Puskar. He was my grade school principal then my teaching principal.
G2.0: Did you have any mentors or teachers that led you to want to become a teacher while you were a student at Sto-Rox?
Raymond: I knew I wanted to be a teacher thanks to my first-grade teacher Mrs. McConnell. I used to go home and play school with my dolls and stuffed animals. I loved her.
G2.0: I bet it is making you so proud to teach in the same district that you graduated from.
Raymond: It was an honor to begin my teaching career at Sto-Rox. That’s where my love for teaching all started. The district prepared me for college and now I was preparing my students to become whatever they wanted to be. I’m always proud to say I’m from the Rox.
G2.0: You pushed for the successful Sto-Rox kindergarten bootcamp. Where did that idea come from?
Raymond: I was at a High 5 professional development session. Neighboring Cornell had a program and I thought we could provide a program for our little ones, too. It would be great to introduce them to the building and the bus without the older students being there. Parents can come the first day with their child. Both the kinder kids and the parents will be able to meet the kindergarten teachers and staff — the principal, nurse, counselor, etc. Parents will have the opportunity to ask questions. It would make both the parent and the kids feel more comfortable with this new experience. The teachers also will get to know some of their students on their roster. It went to the board and the board approved it.
G2.0: What keeps you coming back to teach year after year?
Raymond: I love what I do. I love teaching the kids and seeing them grow educationally and socially from the first day to the last day. I love working with the parents. And I love working with my Sto-Rox Primary staff.
G2.0: Some of your former classmates got into education as well. Who are some of those and do you share ideas with them?
Raymond: I love talking to my teacher classmates. We share what is happening in each of our school districts — JoAnn Homer taught at North Allegheny and Bruce Byrom teaches at Montour. Dan Vete, Bill Minear and Lori Sims are former Sto-Rox teachers that went to Sto-Rox with me.
G2.0: What are some of the changes you’ve noticed over the year since you were in school up until now?
Raymond: Our community and school district isn’t as populated. There were five elementary schools when I first started. But we have two new elementary buildings with air conditioning and technology use for both teachers and students.
Grades, attendance, lesson plans all were handwritten. Now we have computers on our desks. Students have iPads to work on. Stories and information are right at our fingertips with the internet. Lesson ideas and sharing are available. Curriculum — there are state standards and state tests like the PSSA.
Kindergarten is much more academic. There are more support services available within the schools. There is much more professional development for teachers. There was also much more recess time for the kids.
G2.0: Why do you like teaching the little ones?
Raymond: I started teaching second grade, then first and now kindergarten. I enjoyed teaching every grade. But I like change so after a few years I would switch grades. I enjoy teaching the little ones. When they come to kindergarten, they are like sponges. They love to dance, sing, learn! When they leave, they are now ready for first grade. It’s such a wonderful feeling seeing this transformation. This is their first experience in school and we make it as positive and pleasant as we can.
G2.0: You’ve spent a lot of your own money to help with school supplies for the students. Why is that?
Raymond: Both. The district doesn’t have the money for the extras and we want our students to have the same learning supplies other students in other districts have. We purchase items that go along with our curriculum to make our lessons more engaging. We have positive behavior programs where our students can earn rewards. Prizes are needed. We buy recess games and toys.
We also buy everyday necessities for them — socks, gloves, coats, etc. Donors Choose is an organization a lot of us teachers use. We complete a project application listing materials/supplies we need. People all over the country can donate to this program to help fund it.
G2.0: What is your opinion of virtual learning?
Raymond: With the pandemic, this is the learning we need to use to keep all of us safe. Some students thrive and love to work independently and at their own pace.
Others do better when they are interacting with peers, seeing a teacher in person and being in the classroom. But we have adjusted our lessons and our sessions to make them feel comfortable. We want to make this a positive learning experience. Parents have been wonderful helping out. I don’t think we would be as successful online if it wasn’t for them. We also appreciate the daycares who have been getting our students on Zooms.
A plus with Google classroom, the students can complete the assignments when they can. This is very helpful if the parents work and the students can’t Zoom during the day.
G2.0: How do you feel the young students have adjusted to this format:
Raymond: They are doing the best they can. We are keeping them engaged with a variety of learning activities and zooming. Our Zooms are on all day, so students can pop in to get help or just to pop in.
G2.0: How much longer do you plan on teaching?
Raymond: I love what I do. I don’t look at it as a job. When I retire, I plan on continuing working with kids but babies. I have been accepted in a snuggles program — rocking babies in the hospital.
—Sportswriter, Ken Hohman