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Q&A with Retiring Teacher Ms. Quaite

courtesy of HISD

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Seth Rock (S): When did you start teaching?

Ms. Quaite (Q): I started teaching in January of 1978. A long time ago.

S: Have you taught at any other high schools in your teaching career?

Q: I taught seventh grade Texas History for two years in Waxahachie, and I also taught two years of freshman English at University of Houston.

S: How did you like those?

Q: They were all different. When I was teaching in Waxahachie, the movie Bonnie and Clyde had just come out and I was driving down all the roads that they had driven when they were escaping the law. I would take students home to places like Boz and Five Points down dirt roads in the middle of fields. And it was a very different experience. I wouldn’t drive any student home now but then that  was what you did. I had three children’s homes that fed into the school plus a housing project so it was an interesting experience. Then I taught at U of H and it was good. I had smart students. I learned to teach people who were older than I was.

S: Have you always taught English at Bellaire?

Q: Yes.

S: Has your teaching style changed at any point since you’ve been here?

Q: Oh, yes. I was very formal, very structured, and I have since lost some of that structure and we have done a great deal of group work, that I would never have thought of doing when I first started teaching.

S: In regard to how classes occur, is it pretty much the same?

Q: It’s pretty much the same. My first two years, we were on block schedules and the quarter system, which I hated. Since then we’ve always been on the traditional schedule.

S: Do you cycle through books every few years or do you use the same books every year?

Q: It used to be that we cycled through books every ten years but there has not been a book adoption for English since 2010.

S: Does HISD tell you which books?

Q: Yes, HISD tells us. There is a book committee. That’s the reason why I have so many books in here. As a department chair up until 2006 when we’d have a book adoption, the companies would send me their new books and their new programs to peruse. And the district had a book committee that decided on one book that was for all HISD. Since then Bellaire purchased a special literature book for the juniors. And we use Norton’s, for the senior level, which the other classes at other schools don’t use. So in that way we can determine our own education. But we have not bought any new books since about 2010.

S: What are you favorite individual topics to teach?

Q:  I like teaching Canterbury Tales in Middle English. I also like teaching the Orestia (the whole trilogy). I like the Aeneid. I like to see how literature goes from the Aeneid to Dante’s Inferno to Secret Sharer to Heart of Darkness. I like the progression of ideas throughout literature.

S: What do you enjoy most about teaching?

Q: I love the kids. I love the interaction between them and me. Every year somebody says something about a piece of literature that I thought I knew backwards and forwards and I think “Yes, I never thought about that.” I love that.

S: What are your hopes for all your students?

Q: I hope they all do well in whatever they want to do. Not all of them are going to be lawyers or doctors or stockbrokers or CEO’s of big companies, but no matter what they want to do, I want them to be happy. I don’t want them to be so stressed out and fragmented that they don’t enjoy life.

S: Can you state some of your best experiences at Bellaire?

Q: I’ve won Bellaire Teacher of the Year, in 2002. I was a department chair. I enjoyed that for 10 years. I was the Texas Humanities Teacher of the Year for 2014. I’ve been honored. But my best experiences have been the kids who do their work, and who love me. I was packing up the other day, and I found a gift that my brother commented on. It was a wooden box that was shaped like a book, and you opened it up, and you could put letters or treasures in it. I said, “Oh, I’d forgotten all about that.” A girl who had very little money wanted to get a Mother’s Day present. And I said, “Your mother doesn’t need a nice gift, she needs a gift that shows who you are.” And at the end of the year she gave me this box, and she had decorated it to look like a book. I thought of how I treasured that, more than a lot of Starbucks gift cards, because that was something that she’d put a lot of her soul into. Another boy gave me a mug, just a drinking mug. And he said, “I wanted you to have it. We came here because my father was going to M.D.Anderson, and the one thing that made him feel good was drinking out of this mug until he died.” The boy said, “Of all the people I know, I want you to have it because we can’t take it back to Romania.” And so things like that touch me more than anything else.

S: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Q: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here at Bellaire. I love my students. I did not want to quit. I did not want to retire. But Harvey devastated my house, and I felt with the construction going on next year, it was a message that it was time for me to go.  I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss it greatly.

 

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