Mrs. Barbara Barnitz prepares for her next journey

After 36 years of teaching, Mrs. Barnitz has decided to retire.

After 36 years of teaching, Mrs. Barnitz has decided to retire.

TOWAMENCIN — As a teenager, Mrs. Barbara Barnitz discovered her love for working with students in the halls of North Penn High School. A couple years later, she found herself back at the high school teaching her own students. 36 years later, her teaching career is slowly coming to an end as she is preparing for retirement.

When she attended North Penn High School, she did career study her senior year. 

“I went over to Pennfield and I worked side by side with the reading specialist and one of the learning support teachers and that’s how I knew that I definitely wanted to go into that area,” Barnitz said.

As a student and teacher at North Penn, she always felt that the district is very supportive of the kids.

“When I went to school and I saw that they had classes for everything, I really felt like North Penn was the place for me because they wanted to meet the needs of all different levels. That’s what prompted me to want to stay put and actually teach at North Penn,” Barnitz said.

Compared to how things are now, when Barnitz was a student, she felt like things were very structured and strict. As a teacher, she noticed how things are more flexible for students.

Barnitz attended Millersville University and for her graduate work, she attended Arcadia University. She earned her undergraduate degree in special education, her graduate degree to become a reading specialist, and her master’s degree in reading.

Growing up, Barnitz had a younger brother who struggled learning to read.

“Watching his frustrations, it made me want to help kids, so from the time I was young, I’ve wanted to help kids,” Barnitz said.

She chose special education because she wanted to specifically help the kids who struggled more.

Prior to working at North Penn, she worked at a private school in Levittown, but unfortunately, it ran out of funding, so it had to be shut down. After that, she worked at another school in Elkins Park which also had to be shut down for the same reason.The third and final district she began working at was North Penn School District which she eventually continued working there for 30 years. She taught at Hatfield Elementary School and North Penn High School.

“The first school had children with special needs of all kind; they were all put together in the same classroom. Whether they were hearing impaired, visually impaired, if they had a learning disability, emotionally disturbed, they were always together. That was a challenge, especially for my first year of teaching ever,” Barnitz said.

“At the second school, the kids had some type of behavioral problems, which ended up having them removed from the schools. That was a challenge in trying to reach those kids who could not focus on their work and keep the behaviors under control enough to learn,” Barnitz said.

“At North Penn, it was more of the learning support kids, so it was the kids who, again, struggled learning to read and learning to do basic math skills,” Barnitz added.

She taught all grade levels from elementary school students to middle school students and to high school students. 

When she began teaching in general, she was very nervous to be in charge of a class full of all these students.

“I just couldn’t believe at just 22 or 23 years old, I was actually in charge of this whole class of students. I remember that I had an assistant in the room and at that point in my life, they were always older than I was because I was right out of school, and I found myself turning to those assistants saying, ‘so what do I do now’ and they were like ‘you’re the teacher.’ It was kind of comical in a way that I felt that I was just not the one that should be in charge and it was something that was beyond me until I built some confidence and I knew what I was doing and I saw success in the students,” Barnitz said.

Barnitz believes that reading is a vital skill to learn.

“I feel that reading is the foundation for most other learning. If a student knows how to read, knows how to read well, knows how to read on grade level, knows how to make complex inferences and so on, whatever it is that they’re interested in in the future, they can then read it for themselves and understand. It’s just more far reaching than, possibly, a specific content area. So, laying the groundwork for kids to be independent and successful. Citizens of the future need to know how to read well,” Barnitz said.

Personally, Barnitz loved reading for simply just the literature.

“I enjoy reading myself, I enjoy audiobooks. I feel that if I bring that passion and that enjoyment to what it is that I’m teaching, I can get enthusiastic about it, I can pass that along to the kids and even those that might be reluctant readers, they might be more likely to want to pick up a book of their own and read if I can kind of get them enthusiastic about it,” Barnitz said.

Every time she comes into work, she looks forward to the moment her students begin to learn.

“I look for that light bulb moment where they understand something that they didn’t understand before or that they made some kind of connection or make some kind of inference without me having to necessarily guide them. It’s when they start to internalize the strategies that I’ve been teaching them and make some conclusions and reach understandings on their own,” Barnitz explained.

Since she began teaching, Barnitz changed for the better and became more patient and compassionate.

“When I sometimes see some of my students struggle to grasp the reading skills that I’m trying to teach, I just look at people and think, ‘well, what is it that they are struggling with?’ Even just in a day-to-day life, no matter what circumstance I’m in, it just makes me more patient and compassionate, watching kids struggle to learn to read better, to know that whoever I’m interacting with also has some type of struggle that they’re up against,” Barnitz said.

Being around high school students, she learned to be more laid back and relaxed. It has allowed her to be more honest and close to them because they’re older.

When she sees that her students are meeting success, she feels proud as a teacher because she helped them get to that point and it shows that she’s doing everything right.

“So many times, kids with reading needs often see themselves for years as being a struggling reader and to suddenly see themselves in a different light and gain that confidence in their own abilities, that really makes my day,” Barnitz said.

One of her favorite memories was when she taught at her first school and they had something called The Gift of Time Tribute, similar to the Teacher of the Year Award, and a family nominated her.

“It felt good to know that I have touched another kid’s life in such a way and had that honor to receive such an award,” Barnitz said.

One thing she wants her students to remember about her class is that she gave them as much support and encouragement as she possibly could.

The most important part about teaching, to Barnitz, is making kids comfortable.

“It’s making them feel valued and confident. It’s encouraging them to reach their fullest potential,” Barnitz said.

Once she leaves North Penn, she’ll definitely miss the camaraderie.

“It’s the feeling of support and we’re all in this together and that North Penn is the fun place to be,” Barnitz said.