Teaching and being taught

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JoAnn Barker works with students recently at Keizer Christian Church. She has taught preschool there for 29 years, but is retiring this year. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

JoAnn Barker works with students recently at Keizer Christian Church. She has taught preschool there for 29 years, but is retiring this year. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

JoAnn Barker has learned a few things in her 29 years on the job at a preschool teacher at Keizer Christian Church.

For example, garage sales make perfect places for picking up supplies like beads and googly eyes. Lessons in self-control and patience are best reserved for April and May – the end of the school year – because that’s where they’re needed most. Third, and perhaps most important, is that preschoolers will teach you time and again what it means to love unconditionally.

“That’s what they’ve shown me,” said Barker. “They’re not interested unless you’re being real. They’re all about what you see is what you get.”

Barker plans to retire at the end of May. In her time with the Keizer Christian preschool, she estimates she’s welcomed more than 1,000 students into her classroom. This year, two of her own grandchildren attended alongside two children of students who she had in her first year on the job in 1984.

“My mother was a teacher and she taught me before our family got started. Even when I was little I remember pretending to be like her,” Barker said.

She attended Northwest Christian College and earned a bachelor’s degree in theology before continuing on to get her master’s degree in elementary education. Barker started out teaching grade schoolers, but stopped just long enough to get her own children off to elementary school. That’s when she heard about Keizer Christian starting a preschool and tossed her hat into the ring.

“I never would have made it teaching junior high or high school. The kids should know how to behave by then, but it isn’t always the case,” Barker said. “The preschoolers are also all still smaller than me.”

Her first class was just seven students, only one of which was a girl. Today, she teaches up to 40 students between morning and afternoon sessions.

While she got to develop much of the program, the demands on students entering kindergarten have honed her techniques.

“We make sure that they know colors, letters, numbers, writing their name, that they know how to sit quietly and raise hands when they want to talk,” Barker said.

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