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Teaching In Urban Schools Extremely Hard and Extremely Rewarding

Bill Hildabrand
Bill Hildabrand in the classroom

Staff turnover rates are a consistent problem when recruiting teacher talent. How do you prepare future teachers studying education for the challenges and rigors of urban schooling? 90.5 WESA’s Kevin Gavin posed the question to Bill Hildabrand, seventh grade teacher at Chartiers Valley Middle School, and Lacey Hohl, second grade teacher at Faison Elementary School.

Teaching for over eight years, Hildabrand now works in a suburban school district. He began his teaching career at Propel charter schools. In his opinion, what separates successful and unsuccessful urban teachers is personal philosophy.

“In my experience, the people that I’ve seen be successful in urban education are the ones that have a tenacious commitment to education in their beliefs about it,” he said. “If you don’t have that strong commitment, and that strong belief to help kids and help them succeed, then I think you’ll have a hard time going to school every day.”

Hildabrand said the high turnover rates facing public schools are forcing people to take a closer look at what it takes to prepare people for urban education.

Second year teacher Hohl echoed Hildabrand. The ability for a teacher to connect with his or her students is even more important in an urban setting.

“I don’t see myself as just their teacher teaching them academics; there are social skills we need to teach,” she said. “You’re a family member for them. You’re there for them to cope.”

Hohl cites a distinction between urban teachers and their suburban counterparts is the connection they need to build with the community and parents. She has led after school activities and even had dinner with the parents of several of her students, all to better ingrain herself in the neighborhood, she said.

“I don’t care what setting you’re in. The parents are sending their most precious jewels to you every single day and they’re spending eight hours with you, so the parents need to trust you as well,” she said.

Although children at urban schools face different difficulties such as violence in the neighborhood or food scarcity, both teachers said expectations for students need to remain high. While those issues should be addressed, the kids are still there to learn.

Hildabrand said he believes his time teaching at urban schools has made him not only a better teacher, but an overall better person. While Hohl is only at her second year at Faison, she has already fallen in love with the school.

“If it’s up to me, I’ll be at Faison until I retire,” she said. “I can honestly say I love waking up and going to work every day.” 

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heardhere.

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