Barb Page went to the Aberdeen District School Board of Directors meeting Tuesday night with two of her Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, students to talk about a tour they took of college campuses. Page is one of the advisers for the group, which helps Aberdeen High School students prepare for college.
She thought her Polish immigrant parents, Casey and Teresa Bielec, her husband Doug and daughter Izabella were there to cheer her on since the program often helps immigrants and first generation students. She didn’t even wonder why Izabella, 3, was so adamant about going with her.
She was floored as Superintendent Thomas Opstad rose to award her Teacher of the Year.
“I had absolutely no clue,” the 20-year veteran of teaching said. “I was very, very surprised.”
What does she teach? “A plethora of subjects.” She teaches reading, writing, AVID’s college preparation courses and is yearbook adviser.
She is the youngest of four siblings in her family, who all graduated college. Page’s father immigrated to the Harbor from Poland in 1963, sponsored by a great uncle who worked in logging.
It had taken him five years to get a visa, more time to save so he could bring over his family.
“It was very much education education, education,” she said. “… that we were going to college was instilled in us early.”
Page graduated from Aberdeen High School in 1988, attended Grays Harbor College for two years and then earned her degree at Eastern Washington University. She knew she wanted to work with children and after considering obstetrics and dental hygiene, she opted for education.
She met her husband who is from Walla Walla and they moved to the Harbor. Her husband is CEO at Great Northwest Federal Credit Union.
“It’s interesting. My parents are Polish immigrants (so) the AVID program is dear to my heart.” She has been with the program three years. Twenty-seven students are interviewed and selected for the program in the seventh grade and are in the program through graduation, she said.
It’s like a family, Page said. “We build a relations as a family, we fight as a family, we love each other dearly as family,” she said. She has seen some AVID students got through horrific situations during junior high and high school.
The AVID program started in San Diego. “We are fortunate to get funding from Grays Harbor Community Foundation and college grants.” The course of study is rigorous, she said. Students learn how to apply for financial aid, to write scholarship essays, many have parents who may not know how to support them, she said.
Page got a little emotional listening to Alejandra Cabrales and Alexis Miranda speak about their college tour. Both are the first in their families to go to college, both chose Western Washington University.
“To see those kids really work hard to become young adults,” she said. “It is the on hardest thing in my career to let these kids go and move on to the next step.”
She had a “moment of true appreciation of my career and my field — it’s amazing, just amazing.”
She has a few more milestones this year. On May 28, at 1:45 p.m., she will help students Emily Fisher and Kirsten Kell, among others videotape “Lip Dub” a school-wide performance to popular songs. Page loved it last year and said she saw more school spirit and more gold than she had ever seen.
June brings graduation and the yearbook. “It is so rewarding to see a group of students work all year long to develop an amazing book that is journalistic-ally sound and is well thought out, working together.”
Summer brings yearbook camp and an AVID conference in California, then “working on home projects, working in the yard, basking in the sun with my daughter.”
Come fall to spring, 2014-15, the cycle begins again. This time, Page will also be Teacher of the Year.