BART students return to class with new teachers, staff

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ADAMS -- On Thursday morning, Stephanie Watroba and Betsy Marr finally made it to the head of the class -- as first-year teachers -- at Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School.

BART opened its doors for the new school year on Thursday and is the first public school to return to classes in Berkshire County. This is also the school's 10th year of operation.

Watroba and Marr are among more than a half-dozen teachers and staff members who have new roles at BART this year. The school also has a new principal, April West, who previously taught high school classes in the middle and high school building.

Watroba and Marr will be teaching high school physics and eighth-grade English, respectively.

At BART, as with any school, the first month or so of a new school year is filled with transitions and new learning curves, excitement and some anxieties.

Not only new to the teaching profession, Marr and Watroba said they are both acclimating to a town and school building that's new to them.

"Before school started, while we were in training, I walked down hallways several times and got lost," said Marr, who also comes to the Adams area from New York state and Bennington College.

She recommends students do what she did -- take a few laps around the school to orient yourself.

Marr also said students should be open to new experiences and possibilities.

"I moved around a lot as a kid, meaning I was frequently ‘the new kid' in places. I've found it helpful to be open to communicating, finding new friends and new experiences, and seeing things as an adventure rather than a challenge," she said.

Watroba joined BART after working three years in the special education department for Pittsfield Public Schools and graduating from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

During her first class Thursday morning, she started with a lesson not on physics, but a talk about perspectives and first impressions.

She asked students to raise their hands if they first, thought physics was hard, second, thought math was hard, and third, didn't want to be in physics class. Collectively, about half of Watroba's students raised a hand to one of the above.

"It's OK. When I was your age, I didn't understand physics. I didn't have a teacher who wanted to help me. That's why I'm here, to help you," she said. "Physics is hard, but it's OK for something to be hard. It doesn't mean you can't do it."

Asked how she felt after her first class, Watroba said, "I was so calm before they all came in, then they walked into the classroom and I instantly forgot everything I was going to say."

Eventually the new teacher regained her composure and got her students to talk and laugh during an ice-breaker exercise, and at the promise of science experiments that will involve ooze, chemical reactions and hands-on learning.

"You have to be brave enough to fail sometimes, whether it's socially or in a class. It's the only way to learn and grow," Watroba said.

To reach Jenn Smith:
jsmith@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6239.
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink

What's new ...

n BART opened Thursday for its 10th year of school. A record 340 students will attend the public charter school, a 10 percent growth from the previous year.

n BART is now operating under a raised enrollment cap of 363 students, and has officially added Pittsfield to the list of cities and towns its chartered to serve.

n April West is the new principal of the school this year.

n New teachers include: Barry Grauman (mathematics), Betsy Marr (English), Elena Rebrina (Spanish), Karin Stack (visual arts), Alexia Trainor (21st Century Community Learning Center site coordinator), Stephanie Watroba (physics).

n The school will soon finish renovating its new Bo and Katherine Peabody Science Lab for chemistry and biology.

n Students at BART may now play on a football team with students from St. Joseph's Central High School.

n An expanded 21st Century Community Learning Center program, with extended after-school enrichment programs that run for two hours each day. Weeklong programs will run in February and April.

First days ...

Note: Savoy's start date was unavailable as of press time.

Aug. 28

Farmington River

Lee

Abbott Memorial (Florida)

Hancock

Richmond

Lanesborough

Southern Berkshire

Aug. 29

Berkshire Hills (pre-K through 8)

Lenox

Aug. 30

Berkshire Hills (all grades)

Sept. 3

Adams-Cheshire

Central Berkshire

Pittsfield (grades 1-5; 6 and 9)

Sept. 4

North Adams

Pittsfield (all grades)

Williamstown Elementary (grades 1-6)

Mount Greylock

Clarksburg

Sept. 5

McCann Tech

Sept. 11

Williamstown Elementary (pre-K and kindergarten)


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