Diane Klabechek, MS '96Environmental Education
Going the Extra Mile for Young and Adult Learners
Dianne Klabechek discovered her passion for teaching a little later than most. She was a divorced mom of three teens and in a career change when she graduated from Rhode Island College in 1993 and began her teaching career in math and science for grades seven and eight. A desire to have a master's degree brought her to AUNE's environmental education program and to New Hampshire. She was a finalist for the Presidential Math and Science Teacher of the Year in 2002 and a finalist for the NH Teacher of the Year in 2003. This is one teacher making an impact on the lives of many children and adults.
In the classroom she uses animals, usually rats, to reach children, and has found the animal-child relationship helpful in situations such as dealing with Aspergers, or with children with sick parents. Her philosophy is simple “I reach children by being available to them.”
Her classroom is welcoming, with a comfy chair, beanbags, emergency snacks, and music. She has it open early in the morning and well after school hours. "There are days when I doubt I touch anyone. In the effort to reach one, I stretch for many. This philosophy can exhaust a person, but just a glimmer of success encourages me to keep going." The students know it's a safe place to wait for a late parent or spend time between school and sports practice. “It is during these drop-in visits,” Dianne says “while we work on a problem from class or piece together a jigsaw puzzle, that conversations begin. These are the times I KNOW I am teaching and learning.”
A Teacher Who Keeps on Giving
Outside of class she initiates a chess club; Lunchtime Math Munchers for kids who want more complicated mathematics; and following 9/11 she converted her annual Teddy Bear Picnic to a teddy bear compassionate service project that mailed thousands of donated teddy bears all over the world with personal notes attached. Between these extra initiatives and helping her colleagues with their projects at all grade levels, Dianne also teaches math to adults several evenings a week. “For many years I felt drawn to the world of adult education. I have taught night craft classes, classes at a technical school, and classes at Plymouth State College, but never quite felt like I was in the right place.” Then she answered an ad to teach Adult Basic Education. Her students come from all walks of life: “some are working now and want a better job, some have not worked for a long time, some are court ordered to attend, some are parent ordered to attend, and others want to complete something started long ago. Most of them want an education so badly that they are willing to make many sacrifices to make it happen. I have difficulty describing the feelings I have when I see them at graduation, or better yet when I see them on the street and they tell me about a new job or going to college.”
Dianne also teaches a summer camp for girls using her outdoors skills to teach self esteem, crafts, canoeing skills, and how to be tough without being mean. Dianne, pictured above with one of her campers, emphasizes “self worth, sense of humor, knowledge, choice, and accountability” through story telling, lessons in environmental science, and journal writing. Dianne states that her hope is for “the girls go home with some seeds to nurture to make them strong women able to make good choices and become leaders in their communities." Having been touched by Dianne, many will also probably become great teachers in her model.