Good teachers never stop learning. Not only do they take on the task of molding tomorrow’s professionals, they have a zest for absorbing new information and turning it into opportunities to teach others. Graduates of University of Findlay’s College of Education are no exception. This can clearly be seen in alumni like Andrea (Bender) Barger ’00 M ‘02.
Barger, a Findlay native, admittedly attended UF, initially, because it was close, and, what she called an “easy” choice for her. She was quiet and reserved, and didn’t quite feel a good fit with any college that was bigger and at more of a distance. She would find, upon becoming an official Oiler freshman, that the University was all that she needed, and then some. “Yes, it had the small class sizes and allowed for professional relationships between students and professors,” she said, “but it was the people I met, with their vastly different backstories and life opportunities that college provides. That made it move from the ‘easy’ choice to more of the ‘better’ choice.”
Barger graduated from the University of Findlay in 2000 with a degree in psychology, and spent the following summer living on the New Jersey shore. It was fun, she said, but she found that she couldn’t shake the calling, even as a fresh college graduate, that there was more to do at that particular time. She made the move back to Findlay, and, without a job lined up, applied for a substitute teaching license to buy some time. “Literally, after the very first day of teaching – it was a special needs class at Findlay High School – I came home and had that ‘ah ha’ moment,” she remembered. “Why had I never thought of going into this career? I was hooked!” In essence, that calling that had pulled her back to Findlay was her calling.
She enrolled in the graduate program at UF, feeling with every passing day that her life was meant to be spent as an educator. She earned her graduate degree, and took the first job that was offered to her in Greenville, Ohio. “My certification was in English, Language Arts, but that job was as an intervention specialist! Oh man, you want to talk about learning!” she said. “It was a great experience, but I still wanted to be in Findlay, so, for the next year I fortunately found a job as an ELA teacher closer to Findlay, at Arlington High School.”
Seventeen years later, Barger is still there.
And, as it turns out, she is still learning new things. She teaches General and Advanced English 10, Media Writing, co-teaches Psychology and College Writing, and, new to her duties this year, is being the school’s LEAD teacher for implementing Leader in Me in grades 7-12.
Barger confidently said that UF prepared her well for life and her career for a few reasons, the chief one being the ability to know what her students need. “I had a few professors at UF that went well above and beyond their regular teaching duties to make time for me and help me learn, and I took that with me,” she said. A lot of my day now consists of listening to the students and, at the same time, learning from them. Kids come into my classroom each day with a different story or need or want, and my goal is to try to fulfill any and all of those requests, so that the students know that they matter.”
And even now, she said, taking a page from those who showed her that the students are the most important part of the equation, the learning continues. “I love learning about my students and it is so reassuring when you realize they understand a concept, or more importantly, become aware of who they really are as a human being,” she said. “That’s when I know I’ve done okay.”