TOWAMENCIN — Most couples don’t spend a day teaching kids everything from how to solve equations, analyze fingerprints, and play a pretend game called Pirate, but this is what a usual day consists of for the Curleys.
North Penn High School Math teacher Mr. Jason Curley and North Penn High School Science teacher Mrs. Katie Curley first met at a baseball watch party held by fellow teacher Mrs. Lauren Brett. However, this party did not consist of as many people as they were anticipating.
“Mrs. Brett, who was Ms. Budweg at the time, called both Mrs. Curley and I before we knew each other and her words were something like ‘I am having a lot of friends come over to watch the Phillies game’ because the Phillies were in the playoffs… And of course I said, ‘Yeah that’d be great.’ Mrs. Curley, unknowing to me, said ‘Yeah that’d be great.’ The only people there were me, Mrs. Curley, and Mrs. Brett,” Mr. Curley explained.
It was the following Friday where the relationship started picking up some steam. They met again at the football game tailgate (both students and teachers tailgated for home football games back then). After spending time together that night, Mr. Curley asked Mrs. Brett for Mrs. Curley’s phone number the next day. They started dating and eventually got married.
“The next day he asked Mrs. Brett if he could have my phone number and she quickly asked me if it was okay, and I said yes,” Mrs. Curley said. “We then dated for 6 years and got married in 2014.”
On a typical day at the Curley house, they wake up early and have to get breakfast ready for their 4 year old son, Kellen, and 2 year old daughter, Kacie. Then, they have to get in the mindset to teach other kids.
“It’s pretty chaotic sometimes. It’s getting up pretty early, Mr. Curley has to get out of the house earlier than I do, so it’s making sure the kids are up and that they have some breakfast, getting them ready for school, and kind of getting ourselves in the mindset to teach ourselves,” Mrs. Curley explained. “In the afternoon, sometimes, it is like a whirlwind or a tornado, there is never enough time in the day. We get home and because our kids are pretty little, they actively want to play.”
Their schedules, due to an extra responsibility Mrs. Curley has, allows them to be able to get their kids to and from their daycare. Both Mr. and Mrs. Curley also get alone time with the kids during these times.
“I am the lab aid coordinator for the C-pod science teachers, so I actually have a first period that is kind of flexible, like late arrival. That allows me to get the kids off to daycare in the morning. It lets me have some free time in the morning, but I am here after school later, so Mr. Curley does pick up the kids from daycare, so we each get some alone time with them,” Mrs. Curley stated.
The Curleys know that with little children, they have to be able to do a lot of their work either in school or after they go to bed. These 2 times are used mightily by them for getting work done.
“I try to get as much work done as I can at school, so that I have the free time at home. And I have seen Mrs. Curley play with the kids in the evening, put them to bed, and then do her schoolwork,” Mr. Curley said.
Each of them knows what to expect when it comes to the other having to do their work and this knowledge helps them aid the other in the work they are doing.
“We know what to expect outside of work. We know the responsibilities we need to meet and we know how much time it takes sometimes outside of school to get it done. Knowing the job and position helps us understand what each other needs at home,” Mr. Curley explained.
They also use the similarity to help in the job. They are able to share ideas and see what ideas are working vs what is not working. The Curleys also like talking about their time during the day one they are home from work.
“I think we understand each other in terms of how we are feeling about things that happen at work. If something doesn’t go right we can always bounce ideas off each other…I think we often have a lot of students in common so sometimes we have some good conversations about things that happen during the day when we get home,” Mrs. Curley said.
Mrs. Curley uses her time taking the kids to daycare as a time to really convey how important education is through her own career. She says that Kellen and Kacie have really taken to this idea and are looking at daycare more like a school.
“I also like that when I take my own children to school, I can tell them that school is important, and look at what mommy and daddy do. We work in a school, we find value in education and learning, so I think it helps understand why it’s important to go to daycare, which we refer to as school. They have taken on that habit as well,” Mrs. Curley explained.
On the other hand, Mr. Curley uses time after school to convey how important education is to his kids. However, he does not quiz his kids in a standard question-answer way. Instead, he’ll ask Kellen what he learned each day, and Mr. Curley says this helps open him up to want to learn and share what he learned.
“We are teachers and we truly love education so we try to nurture that in them as well. I don’t go home and have my son write his name 100 times, I don’t practice what’s five plus five, what I try to nurture in him is “What’d you learn today?” I say to him almost every day “Kellen can you teach me what you learned today?” So the teacher side of me is trying to instill the value of education in him so he grows curious and always wants to teach and always wants to share,” Mr. Curley explained.
The Curleys both point to the interaction between them and their students as the biggest part of their classes that they miss. For Mrs. Curley, the time between classes and during lab work she uses to talk to students is no longer present, and she says that this takes away from the time to get to know her students personally.
“For me the biggest part missing is the student interaction between classes and while class is getting started. I miss those conversations. Nobody really wants to talk to me online when they are first logging in because it is hard,” Mrs. Curley stated. “In forensics in particular, I miss the lab work and the group work. That’s usually another time when I would talk to students, ask what they did over the weekend, how sports are going, and if they’re involved in Boy Scouts, what activities are they doing. That part for me is the biggest missing part for me.”
Mr. Curley finds himself talking less with a mask on. He says that it becomes harder to talk through a mask, and either because of this or because the students don’t want to, he is missing the everyday conversations that usually take place.
“When I am in front of students I talk a lot, and with a mask on I find myself limiting my speech quite a bit. It seems those same conversations are hard to have with maybe 2 or 3 students in the room,” Mr. Curley said.
The challenges of no student interaction are not the only challenges the Curleys face at work. Mrs. Curley says that the challenge of focusing on 2 groups at once is hard as well. She often finds herself focusing on one group or the other.
“I think for me it’s trying to figure out who to focus on. So if some classes have more kids in person I tend to find myself talking to them more and then I feel as if I am ignoring the students who are virtual that day. And then when it’s just one student, which I have had a lot, I feel kind of bad for that student because I feel like I am focused more on trying to teach to those guys who are at home and sometimes I feel like I might be ignoring the person who is in person not intentionally… I find myself leaning one way or the other from class to class depending on who is in the classroom and who is not,” Mrs. Curley explained.
Mr. Curley, however, says the challenge is trying not to talk over one another. The fact that nobody can see each other and figure out when someone will talk presents a major challenge. He also in those situations finds himself favoring one group or the other.
“I think the challenge is that we can’t all see each other. The students in class can’t see when a student at home is about to speak, or you can see a student in class getting ready to say something but the people at home can’t see that,” Mr Curley said. “So we tend to talk over each other, and sometimes when I have to determine who to talk to, if I catch myself ignoring the students in the classroom and I’ll admit that I got wrapped up in the computer because there happens to be more people there.”
As for how their careers in teaching started, both took different paths to the job. Mr. Curley started at a different job; for the first 11 years of his working experience he drove past a school. It was this school that ignited his passion for teaching.
“I still remember in a previous career what it felt like for the first 11 years of my working career. I drove past a school every day on the way to work. I didn’t even look at the school the first 7 years I drove past it, but for the last 4 years almost every day I drove past it and thought I should be in there teaching. I thought the energy in there is really positive because when you think of the energy of kids, it is very pure and high energy. That is what my last career kind of lacked a little bit. I didn’t feel that same energy or enthusiasm about what I was doing. That school was a symbol of what I needed, which was energy,” Mr. Curley explained.
For Mrs. Curley, her 6th grade librarian could see that she had a teacher inside of her. However, it wasn’t until college that she decided to move to teaching from the medical field. It was in her senior year that she got her first job at the high school, and she hasn’t left since.
“I can remember in 6th grade we used to do a field day at school and some of the students were selected to be team leaders. I was selected to be a team leader and I can remember helping one of the students tie their shoe, and the librarian pulled me aside and said “I know what your gonna be when you get older,” and I said “yeah, I’m gonna be a doctor,” and she said “No you’re not, you’re gonna be a teacher,” Mrs. Curley stated. “I can remember that because even going into college I wanted to go to medical school and my parents always said I’d be really good. I can remember my freshman year in college when my advisor asked what I was taking next semester and I said I’d rather be a person at a medical school that teaches…For me, I lucked out senior year and got into a long term sub position and I haven’t left.”
As for why they stayed at North Penn, Mrs. Curley quickly pointed to the colleagues. She says that their willingness to help you, share material, and just be overall good friends to you is what made her choose North Penn over other districts.
“I can tell you the people in the science department and the chemistry department in general is why I came back after my year as a sub. They were so open, so inviting, they shared all of their material, they would’ve dropped anything they were doing in their class to try an help me, because they knew I was in a tough position coming in in May trying to end the school year for somebody…It wasn’t the actual job, but the people that made me want to come back to North Penn,” Mrs. Curley explained.
Mr. Curley pointed to the location of his job as an additional reason as to why he wanted to work at North Penn specifically. He feels way more comfortable knowing how his kids’ education will be because he works in it.
“It’s very nice to work in the same community that we live in. Mrs. Curley and I live in the North Penn community, and we understand the community, we like the community, why not contribute at a school in the same district that we live. To know the system as a whole is great. We will know the whole system from K-12 because we’ve been working in it,” Mr. Curley added. “I wouldn’t exactly feel near as comfortable working in a different district while living in a different district and my children going to one district while I teach in another. I like the idea of working in the same building that our own children will come through, so working in the same district as where I leave just seems to fit.”