Retiring English teacher looks back on three decades
At the end of a career spanning 30 years, a retiring English teacher in the Plainview school district is looking back one last time before turning the page on a new chapter in her life.
Christine Bianco currently resides in Commack with her husband of 37 years, Joseph, but was born and raised in Plainview. As a teacher, she holds the unusual distinction of attending the very school system as a student that she would one day spend nearly her entire professional career working in.
“It was funny, because when I started, my teachers were still here. It was very weird. They went from Mr. or Ms. Smith to John and Mary. It was very awkward,” she said. “But it was a great experience. The administrators were fabulous, and it was such a warm place. For the past 30 years, I’ve worked in the same building and it feels like home. I loved it…it was my life.”
Bianco spent all of her 30 years with the Plainview School District teaching seventh- and eighth-grade English at Howard B. Mattlin Middle School. As far back as she can remember, she said that she had wanted to be a teacher. She went to college to do so initially with the intention of working at the elementary school level. However, upon graduation, she discovered that area of the profession was somewhat jam-packed with applicants, so Bianco went to the next best thing in her opinion—English.
“I had wanted to be either a teacher or an actress,” she said. “But if you’re a teacher, you’re really actually doing both in a way. We do five shows a day.”
She worked initially as a substitute for a spell and later taught at various Catholic schools, but when she noticed a sudden and large number of openings in her old stomping grounds—Plainview—she said that she knew she had to check the opportunities.
“In 1985, about 40 teachers retired, all at the same time,” she said. “I knew that I loved Plainview schools—I had grown up here—and that they were the best schools ever. I knew that I wanted to teach here, so I applied, and did interviews, interviews and more interviews. Finally I was hired by the superintendent. It was very exciting.”
Unfortunately, when it come time to decide whether to finally retire or slug it out for a few more years, Bianco made the same decision that a growing segment of those in her profession are making these days. Due to sweeping changes in education in New York—namely, the removal of much of the individuality from modern teaching due to increased emphasis on regular state assessment testing and the regimented curriculum of the Common Core Learning Standards—she decided to call it a day and move on.
“It bothered me because I felt that we, Plainview, were the Common Core, and that everyone else was trying to catch up to us,” she said. “I really think that’s what made Plainview so special, that kids were able to discover. And my philosophy is that’s how kids learn, by discovering. And you can’t rush discovery. With Common Core, you have to rush. But not everything is about assessment tests.”
One of Bianco’s fondest memories of her career—and one of the ways that she managed to maintain a degree of personality and individuality in her classroom despite the Common Core—was the establishment of an annual time capsule project after being inspired by a similar program she had been exposed to previously.
“For over 20 years, I would have my eighth graders submit things they had written in class, letters written by their parents or grandparents telling them why they thought they were special, and would put them in a time capsule—actually a box in my closet—and they would open it again when they were in 12th grade,” she said. “In eighth grade, they always think this is the stupidest assignment. But in 12th grade, when they get those time capsules back, it’s not a stupid thing anymore. I can’t describe the feeling when I had those time capsules to them. That’s a really important thing that I’ve done and I’ve had students come to me years later and tell me that they still had their time capsules.”
Bianco’s career came to an emotional close at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. As for her plans now that she has a far more abundant amount of time on her hands, she noted that she’s unsure of where life will take her next. However, with her three children grown up and living lives of their own and her husband also enjoying retirement, she noted that she now certainly has plenty of time to make up her mind.
“My husband and I own a little house up in Pennsylvania and we’re going to spend the rest of the summer up there,” she said. “As for the future, who knows? Retiring still hasn’t hit me. It probably will in September. But as for what I’d like to do with my time now, I think I’d like to learn some crafts and perhaps even start writing a novel. We’ll see.”