They've Got Tenure! Part 1

  • Updated: July 29, 2011

    They’ve got tenure! Part 1

    Photo by Ginny Privitar Paul McDevitt and Elaine Lynch 

    For Paul McDevitt and Elaine Lynch, teaching was a natural choice, By Ginny Privitar

    Chester — Last month the Chester school board awarded tenure to four talented teachers, Paul McDevitt, Elaine Lynch, Andrew Latini, and John Ollive. The Chronicle talked to them about their inspirations, memories, and plans for their students. This week, meet Spanish education teacher Paul McDevitt and special education teacher Elaine Lynch.

    What made you decide to teach?

    Paul McDevitt: I wasn’t always planning on being a teacher. I was a business person in my other life. And I was in the Peace Corps in South America for a few years and ended up being in the classroom and working with kids a lot.

    Anyway, I got bit by the education bug and pretty much decided then and there that when I came back I wanted to change to education.

    Elaine Lynch: I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved learning and I’ve wanted to share that love with others. I had really great teachers in school who made learning fun and exciting for me, and I wanted to be able to share that experience. And growing up, I’ve always been around children younger than me. I come from a big family, and I was babysitting at a very early age. I started working at camps when I was in high school. I was in the Future Teachers of America. Everything in my life just fell into place around teaching.

    Did a particular teacher influence you?

    Paul McDevitt: My high school English teacher, Mr. Neal, who I just saw at my high school reunion, and he looked exactly the same — at least from the neck up. He scared me — I shouldn’t say that. He had reasonable but high expectations. He had a way of really pushing you, mostly in my writing. If fact, he inspired me to pick English as my minor. He realized that I could write pretty well, and he pointed that out. You wouldn’t know it with all the red all over the paper, but in there was talent.

    Elaine Lynch: My first-grade teacher, Mrs. McCumber. I remember thinking in first grade I was going to “Mrs. Cucumber.” She was very kind and sweet, but she also had high expectations. I remember thinking, “When I grow up, I want to be like her.” She instilled in me a love for learning and a love for reading, and sharing that love with others. She taught me how to read. And she inspired us to choose books that were our favorites and share them with the class. So that love of sharing came from her.

    What was an especially rewarding experience for you as a teacher?

    Paul McDevitt: Two years ago, I started teaching at a parochial school and went back to visit the principal who was retiring. She was a very popular nun, and the line was out the door to bid her farewell. And in that line were several previous students of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. One of them had been particularly challenging. She was that one who made the day a little longer.

    But she had matured. She said she was going back to school to become a high school teacher. And she said I had inspired her to do that. And this is a girl who I never really would have thought, at all, would have been — it was just a real turnaround. It was a neat thing to hear.

    Elaine Lynch: Children with special needs have a lot of hurdles to tackle that regular students don’t. When I see growth in them it’s especially rewarding because I know how hard they have to work for that. What’s really rewarding is when I get feedback from their families telling me “You’ve made a difference in their lives.” You know you’re making a difference, but hearing’s so rewarding to hear that.

    What do you hope to instill in your students?

    Paul McDevitt: We’re all passionate about the topics we teach. Outside of that I like to instill character in students. I like to help them develop the skill of being a young woman or young gentleman — basic manners and respect for each other. It really has nothing to do with the curriculum. I just think that’s a really important thing to pick up but it sometimes gets lost. That’s one of the reasons I like teaching high school. We’re the last face before they go “out there.” And so, if you can instill some of that, they’re better citizens as a result.

    Elaine Lynch: I try to instill the importance of caring for others and really believing in themselves. They can overcome anything. I try to do a lot of service projects. This year we’re involved in the boxtop program. Every month we count boxtops, and it raises money for the school. And often they ask, “Why do we have to do this? Why can’t somebody else do it?” Counting is a big job. I talk about how it raises money for the school and helps to provide field trips and resources that can be used in the classroom. And we’ve done other projects in the past, like making hygiene kits for Haiti. I try to make them think about others.

    If you considered a different career path, what would it be?

    Paul McDevitt: I probably would have been, and still plan to be, a business owner someday, when I retire. My wife and I talked about opening a bed and breakfast. It’s our dream. It’s not something we’re prepared to do financially or otherwise now. But we both dream of retiring to Italy, somewhere in Tuscany, and opening an inn. We’ll see if we get there.

    Elaine Lynch: If I had to absolutely change, I would probably pursue another service career, like social work or psychology. It’s like I do that now, anyway. I think that would be an easy transition for me. But honestly, I can’t see myself doing anything else.

    One [former student] had been particularly challenging....but she had matured. She was going back to school to become a high school teacher. And she said I had inspired her to do that...It was a neat thing to hear.”

    Paul McDevitt

    Children with special needs have a lot of hurdles that regular students don’t. When I see growth in them it’s especially rewarding because I know how hard they have to work.” Elaine Lynch

    Paul McDevitt 
    Education: Bachelor’s, Plymouth State College; master’s, Farleigh Dickinson 
    Teaches Spanish in the high school and sometimes in the middle school

    Elaine Lynch 
    Education: Bachelor’s, childhood education, Pace University; master’s, special education, Pace University 
    Teaches: Special education, grades 4 and 5