Democrat Photo By Jeanne Sager
JULIE BAUER OF Livingston Manor CS was the only teacher from Sullivan County to receive a Mid-Hudson Study Council’s Award of Excellence. The awards honor the best teachers, administrators and support staff.
By Jeanne Sager
LIVINGSTON MANOR November 14, 2006 She has a different name, a new hairdo, another classroom in another district but Julie Bauer’s the same woman who walked into a kindergarten classroom in 1986.
In her 21st year of teaching, Bauer’s still that teacher kids remember.
She’s still the teacher who turns a book full of big words into a magical adventure.
And 21 years into teaching, the woman who chose the education path over a nursing career after a not-so-glamorous summer of candy striping, was Sullivan County’s only teacher to receive one of the Mid-Hudson Study Council’s Awards of Excellence.
Handed out last month at Anthony’s Pier 9 in New Windsor, the awards go to the best teachers, school board members, administration, pupil personnel and support staff services.
The non-profit corporation at the State University of New York at New Paltz reviewed nominations for Bauer from Livingston Manor Central School Superintendent Dr. Debra Lynker, Elementary Principal Sandra Johnson and Roberta Rehwaldt, head of the school’s committee on special education.
On paper, they found a woman whose bosses said she had a “charming, bubbly personality,” was a “superior educator,” and an “asset” to her school.
In person, Julie Bauer is, indeed, all of those things without any knowledge of it.
When Lynker walked into a staff meeting to announce Bauer’s award, the first grade teacher was embarrassed.
She sat in the room with all of her immediate colleagues and asked, “why me?”
“I was speechless,” she admitted. “They’re all great the whole elementary staff, we do a lot of stuff together.”
She would have named any one of them for an award, Bauer said, not herself.
But Bauer is the one who instituted the read aloud nights that bring parents, children and community members to the school at least once a year to celebrate the written word.
The program has turned the school at times into a giant slumber party (PJs and teddy bears welcome for Snuggle Up and Read Night) or the great outdoors (with s’mores and a giant tent in the gymnasium).
Bauer said she found a common bond with her students’ families when she and husband Michael began having children (they’re now the proud parents of 14-year-old Lindsey, 13-year-old Lucas, 11-year-old Jonah and 9-year-old Noah).
She instituted the reading nights knowing full-well how important it is to sit down with your children, book in hand.
“It is hard for parents,” she explained. “Everyone wants to do the right thing, spend quality time.”
But between working, getting dinner on the table and acting as a chauffeur to soccer practice and the school concerts, cuddling up with a good book is last on the list.
Bauer said she tries to open the doors to the world for her students.
She’s stuck with kindergarten, first and second grades because of the kids.
“They don’t have attitudes yet, and they’re just so honest,” she said with a laugh. “Sometimes too honest!
“They want to do well,” she said, turning serious. “They just so want to please you.”
After a trip to Germany with her children’s Catholic Youth Organization last summer (a group Bauer helps advise, in addition to being CCD director at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Obernburg), she instituted her own spin on a German tradition.
The pickles are “passed” from one student to another as they do little good deeds.
They rush in in the morning now, Bauer said, just to clean out someone else’s desk and plant the pickle inside.
They’re excited to be nice to one another, and excited to start each day fresh.
That’s what’s kept Bauer teaching for 21 years.
The daughter of a popular music teacher at Delaware Valley Central School, the late Janet Von Ahnen, Bauer caught the bug early.
Students with a certain average in English class were allowed to spend time helping out the other teachers and Bauer spent her time with Ruth Robisch and Phyllis Clifford.
Both women encouraged Bauer to stick with teaching, but she was torn.
“I couldn’t decide between nursing and teaching,” she recalled. “I was a candy striper at the hospital… and that kind of cured me of that!”
She graduated from Jeff-Youngsville Central School and attended SUNY Geneseo for a year and a half before transferring to Russell Sage College where she earned a bachelor’s in elementary education and visual and performing arts.
Bauer wanted to follow her mother into the world of music, but she opted instead to teach younger children (teaching music lessons on the side from her home).
After graduating from Russell Sage, a job opened up at Delaware Valley she’d be teaching kindergarten just a few rooms away from her mom.
“I got hired like a week after I graduated!” she said with a laugh.
Bauer wasn’t intending to stay at Delaware Valley she thought the job would be a good experience and she’d head back upstate.
But she began her master’s studies at the College of New Rochelle, earning her graduate degree in gifted and talented, and her mother fell sick.
Bauer stayed at Delaware Valley for four years leaving a year after her mom’s death, because, she said, it hurt to walk by her classroom every day.
She found the job at Livingston Manor in the paper, and applied in a “spur-of-the-moment decision.”
“I figured, I’ll just give it a try,” she recalled.
On vacation in St. Croix, Bauer called back to Sullivan County to check her messages and found a call from the Manor school district.
She immediately called back, over a crackling overseas connection that forced her to repeat every second word, and set up an interview.
She was hired almost right away and she’s been teaching at Manor ever since.
She’s jumped around, taught kindergarten for a total of eight years (including the four spent at Delaware Valley), taught a year of second grade and is in her 12th year teaching first grade.
She’s now a “looping” teacher she’ll follow this year’s first graders into second grade next year, then return to first grade the following year.
She said the process allows for a smoother transition for the kids, the parents and her.
And she gets to spend an extra year seeing her students grow as people and learners.
The years have mellowed Bauer she said motherhood has helped her understand the parents better.
“When I’m at home, I always want to be the perfect mom, and when I’m here, I always want to be the perfect teacher,” she admitted. “You always feel like you’re slighting one or the other.”
Students have changed, she said, although everyone says kids are kids, no matter the era.
Teaching has changed too, Bauer noted, mostly because technology has taken over.
Lesson plans are done online, as are report cards and discipline forms.
But kids are kids.
And Bauer is still a teacher, because, she said, “it’s fun I love it.”