Thelma Barker, Faculty 1963-2005
Before coming to Rectory I was a boarding faculty at Arke Farm School in Woodstock, Connecticut and taught grades one through four in one room. In 1963 I interviewed with Rectory Headmaster John Bigelow and was hired because I was teaching cursive handwriting and reading with a phonics approach. I also had some Montessori knowledge and used sandpaper letters. At that time at Rectory the emphasis was on language training using the Orton-Gillingham book, Remedial Training for Children with Specific Disability in Reading, Spelling, and Penmanship, by Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman.
In addition to the language training work with students, there was a remedial reading program, and the School recently had started a developmental reading program with reading machines. A turning point came when Margaret Rawson taught a workshop for teachers here at Rectory in the summer of 1967. [Mrs. Rawson, president of the Orton Society, was known internationally as an authority in the field of language disability.] In 1969 Laura Sharp became director of the Language Retraining program at Rectory. Under Mrs. Sharp’s direction, our job as tutors was to teach students how to handle language—teach them how to read, how to spell. We were not to do homework with them. The thrust was on remediation of language difficulties. During the 1980s, when Carole Gooder directed the department, our focus broadened, and it became O.K. to help students with study skills and homework. We accommodated the needs of the types of children who now were coming to Rectory.
[During my career at Rectory, I also taught fifth-grade English, and] I always had the students in my English classes memorize poetry. One year an alumnus returned to School and recited “The Wind” by Robert L. Stevenson. It’s always good to hear “you taught me that.” I have enjoyed most working one-to-one with a student because you get to know the child and can see the progress that is made. You always wonder though, “How much help did I give my students?” There’s always that.
After fifty years as an educator, Ms. Barker retired in spring 2005 having spent forty-two of those fifty years at Rectory School. This memory originally was gathered through an interview with Mrs. Lisa Levesque (Faculty 1992- ) and reformatted for this Centennial Story.
Image: Rectory Archives, 1980