By MARIA SHANAHAN
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Claire Schwarzbach, a 6th grade math teacher at Broad Rock Middle School, was named South Kingstown’s Teacher of the Year.
Schwarzbach has been teaching for 22 years and is “excited and honored” to be named Teacher of the Year.
“I feel really lucky to be in South Kingstown teaching,” Schwarzbach said. “I’ve had a lot of colleagues and administrators who have been really supportive and have helped me grow as a person and as a educator.”
Before becoming a teacher, Schwarzbach earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from the University of California, Davis, where she also took education courses. There she also worked in criminal justice at a youth services bureau.
“I wanted to help young people who had sort of had a rough life,” she said. “So I would go into schools and do counseling with them, so then I decided that a good way to do that and to be a good role model for them was to go into teaching.”
The next step was for Schwarzbach to obtain a teaching certification.
“Back then, you had to graduate from college and then apply to a graduate program to get your teaching credential,” she said.
She applied to the University of California’s graduate program but then relocated to Hawaii where here now husband lived at the time.
“I moved to Hawaii and didn’t move back to go to grad school,” she said with a laugh.
In Hawaii, Schwarzbach worked as a kindergarten teacher’s assistant.
“It was exciting because the kids were really just learning to read,” she said. “When you can teach a child to read, that’s such a gift, I really admire that. I also think that numeracy literacy is just as important.”
Schwarzbach harps on the importance of math and science. She took accounting courses and worked in accounting and insurance benefits in the health care industry for about 10 years before obtaining her teaching certification from the University of Rhode Island.
“I think living close to URI I had a tremendous benefit from all the courses that were offered there,” she said. “They used to give wonderful short courses in the summer through Eisenhower grants for math and science and those courses really prepared me to be a great teacher and I had a lot of really good mentors along the way.”
Schwarzbach has become a mentor herself for her 6th grade students. Her favorite aspect of teaching is when her students “get it.”
“When a kid finally says, ‘I get it,’ and they say they really like math, I feel like at this age it’s sort of a turning point,” she said. “Some kids come to me liking math, a lot of kids aren’t so jazzed about it and that’s my goal for them to like it and to see how worthy it is and how important it is in their life.”