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Folks You Should Know: Julie Dombroski

Katherine Scoggins • Apr 1, 2013 at 2:56 AM

After four decades in the classroom, Mrs. Julie Dombroski decided to retire. Or, at least, try to retire. (Again.)

She comes from a family of educators and knew she wanted to teach kindergarten at age 16. Mrs. D has spent 31 of her 35 teaching years at that level in New York and at St. Dominic’s here in Kingsport. She also taught second grade for four years at St. Dominic. Mrs. D’s paternal grandfather became the superintendent of schools in Schoharie County, New York, and has a school named after him. Both of her grandmothers were school teachers until they married.

"My reasons for retiring were greater than my reasons to stay on as a teacher. My father’s death at age 93 last March, and my disabled niece’s declining health were great factors in my decision. I felt it necessary to be more available to my New York state family, whose members need respite care."

It is said that a good teacher never stops learning and, while she might have retired, Mrs. D is certainly not sitting idle. She spends much of her time reading and doing crossword puzzles, has joined a book club and a crafter’s club, and is very active in the Mary & Martha women’s group at St. Dominic. Nor has she abandoned the classroom.

"In retirement, I envisioned myself as a substitute and interim teacher at St. Dominic’s, and I’m doing that. I’m about to finish the school year for a teacher who will be on maternity leave within a week," she said.

A very special opportunity also presented itself to Mrs. D shortly after retirement. It was a project she wanted very much to undertake, but had never it discussed with anyone.

"I had dreamed of preparing special needs children for the sacraments, and I was asked to do that without anyone having known about that dream. Teaching a special needs child has been a great joy and has helped me get back in the swing of preparing lessons several times a week. I have joined a parent support group for special needs children to keep me aware of their concerns," Dombroski said.

Special needs students have a very special place in Mrs. D’s heart. Over the years, she has altered some of the ways she teaches and pays close attention to each student’s style of learning - and she is a strong believer in inclusion.

Over the years, she has witnessed many changes, and, to her credit, accepts it.

"Technology is probably one of the biggest changes. Computers are second nature for students, even the young ones. I’ve had to ask some of my students to help me when I’ve had difficulty with a computer or technical problem. Of course, they usually have no problem resolving the issue," she said.

That is fortunate, because St. Dominic has received several large gifts which have enabled them to purchase and install a SMART Board, ELMOs for each classroom, BrainPOP, BrainPOP Jr., and BrainPOP Espanol. Wi-Fi is in all classrooms and the main hallway.

She has also witnessed changes in education - from the days of no teachers’ aides in the classrooms, little to no instruction in the arts, and little individuality in teaching styles to Big Bird and Sesame Street ("I was afraid I was going to have to dance on my desk to keep my students’ attention!"), scheduled classes in art and music, and cafeteria lunches prepared by a young, creative chef utilizing fresh, healthy foods presented in creative ways.

How does she feel about retiring?

"A kindergarten teacher that I admired was asked to retire after her 68th birthday. I wanted to leave ‘at the top of my game’ and when I did, I immediately called myself teacher emeritus. You can imagine how pleased I was when Pope Benedict XVI appeared to do the same! He, of course, did it for the good of the Church, while I did it for the good of the school."

To Mrs. D, "making way for new blood" (change) brings forth a lot of "wonderful gifts."

For example: new technology is embraced by the younger teachers, who have the most recent training and use it comfortably in the classroom; religious education with support services from the deacons of St. Dominic is offered, which came about as a result of the need to hire more teachers who are Christians of another denomination and the school/Church leadership, who value Catholic education as a ministry and main focus of the school.

"Nearly all school employees are being instructed in the Catholic faith, regardless of their religious denomination, so that they will better understand this ministry of the Church and be able to answer questions of the faith with confidence."

While Mrs. D’s service will be focused in another direction for the time being, she feels her students’ futures are in good hands!

"I believe I can serve my Church and school more effectively as a trained teacher and volunteer - and the ‘vacation days’ are wonderful!"

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