Editor’s note: We’ve all got a story: The instructor who helped you conquer the fear of geometry, or provided comfort when you were bullied, or encouraged you to apply for a scholarship. In this ongoing series, we introduce some of the educators behind those stories.
By Felicia S. Levine
City & Shore Magazine
EDUCATOR: Jackie Verburg, STEM and Fifth-Grade Science Teacher, Kindergarten-Fifth Grade at St. Mark’s Episcopal School, 1750 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-563-4508, saintmarks.com.
ABOUT VERBURG: Formerly a banking and retail manager, Verburg, 50, was drawn to teaching after volunteering at her then-toddler son’s school. “I told my husband, ‘I want to go back to school and be a teacher! What do you think?’” recalls Verburg, who at the time also had a 6-month-old daughter. “I took night classes while he watched the kids; he worked days while I watched them.” She earned her master’s degree in elementary education from Florida Atlantic University, taught for a year at a school in Lauderdale Lakes and in 2002 joined St. Mark’s teaching first grade. Last year she became a teacher for the school’s STEM program, which incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. She also teaches fifth-grade science.
WHY EDUCATION? “Because it’s incredible to have such an impact on a little one’s life. I can’t think of doing anything else.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: “Staying organized,” she says. “I take great pride in it and get mad at myself when I’m not.” This includes Sunday night lesson-planning, secondary checklists and pre-class moments of reflection.
She also works with a wide age-range. “You have to switch the way you speak to the first graders vs. the fifth graders and approach subjects differently.”
And while technology is a boon for education, it can be detrimental to kids’ imaginations. “Tell them to picture something and it’s difficult because they’re used to technology showing them. I just wish that every so often a child could look out the window and see what shape a cloud is making,” she says, wistfully. “Ask them if they’ve ever done that, and they’ll say they’d never thought of it.”
MEMORABLE MOMENTS: “I had a favorite math teacher named Father Charles at Cardinal Gibbons High School who passed away last year. At his funeral I ran into one of my former students who also had him,” she says. “The student said he felt ‘lucky’ to have had two of the best math teachers… I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, you put me in the same realm as Father Charles!’ That meant so much to me. It makes me cry every time I think about it.”