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Schools: Former students return at front of the classroom

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Ben Tester thought his interest in science would take him into the health care sector after he graduated from college. Instead, he’s gone into the family business.

So has Caroline Temple. Although she chose her career path while she was still at Waccamaw High School, she didn’t know it would bring her to familiar grounds.

They both went back to school this week, teaching in the Waccamaw schools where they once were taught. They are part of a steady stream of former students who have returned as teachers in area schools. And for both, teaching runs in the family.

Tester began teaching seventh-grade science Wednesday at Waccamaw Middle. His father, Jon, is a former teacher and principal at Waccamaw Elementary who now head the district’s human resources department. His mother, Mary, chairs the special services department at Waccamaw High.

“I always told myself I would not be a teacher,” Tester said.

He went to the College of Charleston, where he earned a degree in biology. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it,” Tester said. For a change of pace, he worked in a law firm. “Those are some long, tough hours,” he said, and filled with paperwork.

He worked as an assistant in a special education class at Georgetown Middle School last year. “I have a lot of background in special education,” he said. He liked the work and the middle school environment.

Temple was a teacher cadet at Waccamaw High. That led to a scholarship to the College of Charleston, where she earned a degree in elementary education. Her mother, Cindy Ciuba, teaches sixth-grade at Waccamaw Intermediate. They will be working together this year as Temple works as a guidance counselor with sixth-graders.

“She never really pushed me, but said I’d be great at it,” Temple said.

Her student teaching was in third grade at a school in North Charleston with a large number of students who were deemed at-risk. “The passion for me was more focused on teaching kids life skills,” Temple said. She earned a master’s degree in school counseling from The Citadel.

She thought she might return to the area eventually. “Young and single, you never think you’re going to come back,” Temple said. But she was married this spring and her husband Dan, a CPA who also grew up in Murrells Inlet, agreed this was the place they ought to settle down.

Temple will also work at Waccamaw Elementary with second-graders. “It’s so weird coming back, especially at the elementary school,” she said. The teachers are ones she grew up with. “They still look the same. I need to start drinking out of the water fountain.” She is one of four former students who joined the elementary school staff this year. Brendanique Brown, Stephanie Eggiman and Linley Tadlock are the others.

Tester’s middle school science teacher, Richard Bankert, recently stepped down, so there isn’t the same sense of déja vu. Still, “I’m excited to be a Wildcat again,” he said.

He enrolled in a three-year program to get his teaching license. His degree qualified him for the curriculum, which covers “life science, body systems and ecology,” Tester said. He will continue to take seminars to improve his teaching skills.

One thing he learned already is the amount of planning that goes into the lessons. “My parents were always staying late as school,” he said. Now he knows why. “There’s a lot more to it.”

He finds the middle school a challenge because it’s a time when the students are learning to be independent. “It’s not just learning in the classroom, it’s growing character,” Tester said. “A lot of my friends are teachers. We all look at it as changing lives.”

Much of Temple’s work will focus on career choices. She already has plans for a field trip to the Boeing plant in North Charleston. “I’m never going to tell them they can’t be a rock star,” Temple said. “But I might suggest some alternatives.”

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