photo by: Joselyn King
WHEELING – It’s fun to plant vegetables and flowers, but Christine Carder says her greatest joy has been watching students grow and bloom into successful adults.
This past week, Carder was honored by her colleagues on the Ohio County Board of Education and school officials for nearly a half century of service to Ohio County Schools.
“It’s really been a pleasure serving on the board of education for the last 12 years, and I’ve enjoyed ‘almost’ every minute of it,” she told board members.
Superintendent Kim Miller and Board President David Croft presented her with a plaque for her efforts.
“Ms. Christine Carder is an educator who has truly done it all,” Miller said. “We thank her very much for her years of service to Ohio County Schools.
“Ms. Carder, when they say people give their heart and soul to the school system, you are Ohio County Schools and you have your heart in the schools. We cannot thank you more.”
Carder was first hired in Ohio County Schools in 1973 as a teacher at the former Woodsdale Junior High, where students and teachers later would be transferred to Triadelphia Middle School in 1976. She would remain a teacher there until 1987.
In 1988, Carder went to work for the Regional Education Service Area District 6 as a drug and alcohol abuse prevention coordinator. She returned to Ohio County Schools in 1989 to become assistant principal and director of the career and technical education program at Wheeling Park High School.
In 2002, she was tapped as principal at Woodsdale Elementary School before going on to become Wheeling Park principal in 2004.
Carder retired as principal in 2008, then was successfully elected to her first term on the Ohio County Board of Education in 2010. After serving three terms, she chose not to run for re-election this year.
“The most exciting thing is to watch students grow,” Carder said. “I have been to so many graduations.”
She said the most recent Wheeling Park graduation last month was the 21st in which she participated and helped hand out diplomas.
“This was the first year I didn’t have a student come through that I had had before as a student,” Carder said. “But (for at least one of them) I had had their parents” as students.
She added in some cases, she may have even taught their grandparents.
“It’s been an interesting 50 years,” Carder said. “The changes I’ve seen over time – watching kids grow, and changing with the times. It’s always exciting.”
What is different today is that children are exposed to a lot of things much sooner, she explained.
“Social media has made changes in their lives, so have cell phones and technology,” Carder said. “Some things about this are good, some not so good.”
She also has seen education become about “teaching to the test.”
“In many cases, we are too focused on assessment rather than the teaching part of education,” Carder said. “We are so far into assessment we miss the object of teaching.
“It’s not about just getting them to pass a test. We have to give them knowledge and the ability to make decisions on their own. A lot of things that happen in the classroom aren’t tested for on the assessment.”
The student-teacher bond that happens in school was what went missing when students took to learning at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has been interesting,” Carder said of recent months. “In nearly 50 years in education, I never thought anything like this pandemic would happen. It was like nothing I had ever experienced.
“The school system was overwhelmed with the loss of learning time. Now there’s a lot of work to do to get the kids back where they were.”
Learning at home was difficult for many youths, Carder acknowledged.
“It takes disciplined students, and they have to have the support from their parents,” she explained. “They have to be followed. They can’t be left on their own.
“They need personal contact and personal relationships.”
Carder said she now worries about families being taken advantage of by the lure of virtual schools.
“Students have to be disciplined, and you have to keep up with what they do,” she said. “I think our teachers did an admirable job trying to educate students at home, and they worked overtime to provide for their kids.
“It is just difficult to accomplish in many cases. I don’t think it will be a new trend in the future.”
Carder said the best thing she saw happen during her tenure was the consolidation of the school district’s three high schools into Wheeling Park High School in 1976.
“Kids now have more opportunities to do so many things,” Carder said. “One of the best things we did was to collaborate with the schools. Students can be in vocational schools and take the classes they want instead of being in strict college prep classes.
“And students don’t have to leave their school to go take courses elsewhere.”
Carder said she would encourage young people who want to teach to pursue a career in education.
“Absolutely. I loved every job I ever had,” she said. “It’s an interesting career. If I had the choice, I would do it all again.”
But those who pursue education as a profession need to be passionate about their work, Carder added.
“You have to be a dedicated person,” she explained. “There are disappointments, but there are also rewarding days.
“When you see someone you have as a student and they are successful, it’s an amazing thing to think you had a small part in it,” Carder said.