‘Exceptional’ teacher: Special needs educator recognized

Published 9:26 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2013

ONE-ON-ONE: Bath Elementary School teacher Paula Eubanks helps student Tommy Smith with an assignment. Eubanks was awarded Exceptional Children (EC) Teacher of Excellence for Beaufort County Schools. Mona Moore | Daily News

BATH — Paula Eubanks realized she wanted to teach exceptional children (EC) while a sixth-grader at P.S. Jones.
Instead of taking an art or music class, Eubanks volunteered to assist the special education teacher and worked with mentally handicapped students.
“I fell in love… and said this is it. This is great,” she said.
Eubanks got her undergraduate degree from East Carolina University and is a few months away from obtaining her master’s degree. Eubanks has worked for Beaufort County Schools for nine years and said she hopes to retire at Bath Elementary.
“I love Bath,” she said. “We’re a tight-knit community.”
Eubanks was recently recognized for her work in Beaufort County Schools. The district chose her as EC Teacher of Excellence. She was recognized at the state’s Conference on Exceptional Children and at last month’s school board meeting.
“It was shocking because only one person from the county was chosen and I had to go to Greensboro and accept the award in front of 3,000 people,” she said. “But, you’re peer-nominated. It really meant a lot that it came from another teacher.”
Eubanks works with children with all sorts of special needs. The broad list of students includes anyone who learns at a different pace for any reason.
Eubanks teaches the same curriculum as other Bath teachers and her students are graded for all of their work.
“I just break down the topics into chunks and I do a lot of activities to reinforce the skills,” she said. “It’s the same type of class, but it’s broken down to meet everyone’s needs.”
Eubanks said tending to and meeting the variety of special needs of her students is the hardest part of her job.
“It takes a lot of patience, but it’s fun,” she said.
Her students agree.
“She’s a good teacher,” said Tommy Smith, a fourth grade student of Eubanks’.
Students usually attend Eubanks’ class from fourth grade until they graduate from Bath Elementary in eighth grade. It is her favorite part of the job.
“(They) come to me as little fourth-graders then leave as young adults. I get to see them develop emotionally, physically and academically,” Eubanks said.
She loves seeing them take the lead in her classroom. These students might have struggled in other classes, but Eubanks said they leave her program feeling like kings. She boosts their self-esteem by giving each the opportunity to take an active role in her classroom.
Eubanks said it is important for them to obtain the study skills in her classroom because local high schools do not have a similar program.
Porter Allender is in Eubanks’ class to improve his writing skills.
“And when you think about it, nobody wants to leave this class,” he said.
Students split their day between Eubanks’ class and their regular classrooms.
Eubanks spends the first block of her day with grades four to six. The next block is dedicated to seventh- and eight-graders. Eubanks then co-teaches a class in Bath’s general population.
As soon as a student is assigned to one of Eubanks’ EC classes, she reaches out to the parent. She calls before ever reading the student’s file.
“I think it’s important when you’re looking at a child’s special needs to really get involved with the family,” she said. “They know the child better than anyone.”
This is sixth-grader Haley Burbage’s first year in Eubanks’ class. She said she loves the language activities and said the class was a lot of fun.
“Well, you’re stuck with me for two more years,” Eubanks told her.
Burbage nodded and said, “That’s a good thing.”