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November 1, 2022

Retirement and Reflection—Mrs. Dobbert


Elias: Hello, my name is Elias Kilbridge, and welcome back to The Globe podcast: The Orbit. Today, I have with us one of our great Clayton teachers, Ms. Barbara Dobbert. Thank you so much for coming on, Ms. Dobbert. 

Ms. Dobbert: Well, absolutely, thanks for having me.

Elias: So, Ms. Dobbert, would you like to tell our listeners just a little bit about what you do this year for Clayton and what classes are you teaching? 

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Ms. Dobbert: Sure. So this year [I’m teaching] primarily sophomores and some Juniors, and then AP pre-calculus BC which is primarily Juniors, and I love teaching it.

Elias: So, as you just said, you love teaching—that’s something that’s obviously very clear whenever you step into the classroom. What really inspired you to become a teacher?

Ms. Dobbert: I think it’s always kind of been in me. As a kid, my cousins and siblings and I would play school, and I’d always be the teacher I would make worksheets, and I liked helping the kids in my “class.” Then I went into college, thinking that I was going to be a chem major, but all along, I had a couple of jobs, and one was tutoring. I got so much satisfaction from just helping others, you know, people understand math and find joy in it, and then also my brother took his own life my senior year when he was a junior. Through all those [moments] I felt if I could just make a difference kid’s life and be worth it– so it’s definitely my calling, it’s definitely been my passion, and I get paid for doing this every day. 

Elias: That’s beautiful. Just kind of reflecting on your teaching journey, what’s just some stuff that sticks out to you along the way?

Ms. Dobbert: I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on a lot of different things. Really it’s just about you guys– the students. I love teaching math, but I also hope, and I have been told over the years by students, that I lead by example and I’m a positive role model, especially like 30 years ago for girls to go into STEM, which was not how it is now. Really it’s just about the students that’s my happy place. If there were things in my life going on outside of school and things weren’t really going well, I almost always found joy in my classrooms.

Elias: Are there any particular stories that you have with students that, as you’re reflecting on your career, you’re just like, “This moment almost felt like it really shaped how you viewed teaching or kind of really impacted you throughout your career?”

Ms. Dobbert: I guess there’s been a couple of these over the years. I guess just appreciate the backgrounds where all of you come from… but in any instance, let me think about that. I think really it’s like, yeah I’m a math teacher, but really I view myself as a teacher of children. Over the years I’ve had students come to me when they’ve had celebrations, and I’ve been invited to a lot of things, or they come to me when they feel like they have no one else to talk to. What really stands out is the excitement in the classroom from students saying, “I get this, Ms. Dobbert!” or just letting my students do more of the teaching and learning than just me. Also, when I saw that natural wonder from students like that, I think it was a defining moment. In some situations where, I can let the kids take the reins and their learning. So that was huge earlier in my career. 

Elias: In the classroom, it seems like a lot of your teaching revolves around your students, which isn’t always the case with teachers. Is that something that came naturally to you, or is it something that you picked up from a specific mentor? 

Ms. Dobbert: Well, the math department is just amazing. My colleagues pushed me and challenged me to think about my teaching, to reflect on it, and to review it. To try new things. I felt safe saying “Hey, I’m not really sure how to do this.” So I think it’s instinctive and part of just my nature. But as a young teacher, I didn’t have that confidence like “What if we go off script what do we do?” So it comes with experience but it primarily comes from experience, but also I thrive off that synergy in the classroom, and that’s from the students.

Elias: If there was something you could tell, not only the students that you had this year but all of the students that you’ve had over the years- if there was some sort of advice or thought- what would you say to them?

Ms. Dobbert: I think, and I’ve said this sometimes, that each student that I’ve ever taught is unique in some way. Everyone is special in some way. Everyone has an interesting perspective, and to just believe in you. I know in high school, and I’m thinking about when I was in high school I was so shy and so insecure. I was just like, you know what it’s such a formative part of your [life] but you have so much life ahead of you, just believe in yourself and really appreciate how great each of you are as individuals. So that’s it.

Elias: Well, that’s great advice and something that everyone can benefit from. Now, you just mentioned your students. If you could mention something to your colleagues, how have they shaped you and helped you out throughout your years of teaching?

Ms. Dobbert: Absolutely. I came to Clayton in ‘94, and I came from Chicago public schools, where in math and science, there were limited materials, but there are plenty of resources here. When I say resources, I’m talking about the people. Can you remind me of the question?

Elias: If there is something you could say to your colleagues or how have your colleagues just helped you along the way?

Ms. Dobbert: Yes. First and foremost, I just want to thank them, not just confined to the math department, but when I came here it was the math department that gave me those opportunities and questions in the classroom. We have the math office instead of just having our classrooms. It has really helped us become a group that’s a solid group and compliment each other. I guess just to thank them. I’ve been to other teachers’ classrooms, and I always have a takeaway and also just to thank the district for this wonderful opportunity.

Elias: Obviously, a 30 career is something that anyone could be proud of. Is there something specific that you’re proud of through this beautiful career?

Ms. Dobbert: Well, thank you, Elias. I am proud, and I think I have had an influence and touched a lot of lives which, in any other career, I don’t think I could have done. I am proud, and my tagline as I was reflecting was, I remember my first couple of years at Clayton– like I said, I came from Chicago public schools –leaving the building with a colleague or even thinking: “They pay me to do this, they pay me to do this!” I get to do something I love, my passion, and I’m just proud to be a part of shaping young people’s lives.

Elias: So obviously, we’re going to be seeing you retire, do we have any plans for the future, or is it just up in the air?

Ms. Dobbert: Well, yes, and yes. I do have plans. I’m going to do some traveling, so I think I’m going to spend some time on my “hobby,” which is people. So I’m going to go visit friends and family and take some trips to some places that I haven’t been. But I’m going to be back subbing, so I’m going to be back in the halls of Clayton from time to time. And then there’s some volunteering things that I’ve done a little bit with and I want more time. So I’ll be doing a little bit of that.

Elias: Well, Ms. Dobbert, thank you so much for joining me today. I’ve been in Ms. Dobbert’s class, and I’ve had some of the best times that I’ve had in a math classroom. That’s just from me but I think that’s something that is shared by all of your students, so thank you from me to you and also from Clayton to you. It’s just been a great year, and I think it’s been a great career as well.

This story was originally published on The Globe on May 20, 2024.