Teachers seem to follow a common trend. They find a working environment where they are comfortable, and they usually stay there for a majority of their careers. A teacher, new to Hood River Valley High School, has broken away from this trend. Carol Birdsell may be new to the high school, but she certainly isn’t new to the Hood River County School District. Ms. Birdsell has taught at every secondary school in the district, including Cascade Locks. She taught at Wy’east Middle School for ten years, Hood River Middle School for four years, Cascade Locks for 3, she taught in Germany for one year, and is halfway through her first year at Hood River Valley High School.
One difficulty that comes along with teaching in so many schools is adjusting to new working environments. “Every building has personality,” Ms. Birdsell explained. It takes time to adjust to different personalities. However, the most challenging aspect of adjusting to a new school is figuring out how the little things are done. “The first few days can be overwhelming,” Birdsell admits. Despite the challenges, Birdsell enjoys working at different schools. “I think variety is important,” she explained.
Another adjustment Ms. Birdsell has had to make is her teaching style with different age groups. “With middle schoolers, everything has to be more black and white,” Ms. Birdsell said. She went on to say, “I have to be more strict with the younger age groups.” She also explained that she has enjoyed being at the high school and being able to have more intellectual conversations with her students. When asked about how Ms. Birdsell handles different age groups, co-worker Terri Adams quickly responded, “regardless of age, she is able to connect with them.”
Teaching at Cascade Locks was a very different experience from any other school in the district. Ms. Birdsell taught Social Studies, Science, English, and Art. “At a small school like Cascade Locks you have to be prepared to do more,” Ms. Birdsell said. In addition to teaching a wider range of subjects, Cascade Locks also had a different classroom environment. “We were really close as a Cascade Locks family,” student Paulina Le stated. Le had Ms. Birdsell in 6th grade for art, science, and geography. In 8th grade she had her for Language Arts and Art. With small class sizes, students were able to get to know Ms. Birdsell more personally. “I spoke to her on a level that I would with my friends or family,” Le said simply. However, this connection may not have been due to just the small class. “Ms. Birdsell is super compassionate,” Adams said. Adams has known Ms. Birdsell for 10 years, and she knows her well. Adams continued to say, “She looks at each student individually.”
With everything that Ms. Birdsell has taught, one subject continues to be her favorite. “Art is her passion,” Adams stated. Ms. Birdsell organized a few large art projects including a mural. She even incorporated her love of art into her other subjects. “Ms. Birdsell would use art and videos to make class a lot more fun,” Senior Ashlee Zack explained. Zack had Ms. Birdsell in 6th grade at Cascade Locks, 7th grade at Hood River Middle School, and she is currently her teacher aide at Hood River Valley High School. “She really enjoys helping her students,” Zack said fondly. Her love of art was another positive quality that helped her bond with students. “Since art was both of our interests, we could really connect with each other,” Le said.
Carol Birdsell has broken out of the consistent mold of a teaching career. She has been able to experience different working environments, the personalities of many buildings, and she has been able to share her love of art with a wide variety of students, but most importantly she hasn’t let herself get too comfortable in one place.
By Kristen Gray, Talon staff reporter