Featured Teachers: Maureen LuebbehusenFebruary 19, 2019
By LEANN BURKE
DUBOIS — Dubois Elementary second-grade teacher Maureen Luebbehusen, 62, still remembers when she decided to be a teacher.
She was in seventh grade and people kept asking her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Then, one day while she was lying in her bed, it came to her.
“I remember thinking, ‘I think I want to be a teacher,’” Luebbehusen said. “Mom always came home happy and it seemed to be something she really enjoyed.”
Luebbehusen’s mother, Lucille Seger, taught at Jasper, and Luebbehusen remembers spending a lot of time around school learning what it’s like to be a teacher. Those experiences led her to her own teaching career that has spanned 41 years, with more to come.
There are two keys to Luebbehusen’s long career: flexibility and her students. The first enabled her to weather the many changes that have come to education over her long career, and the second made it all worth it.
“They’re all really cute,” Luebbehusen said of her students. “They all want to learn. They all want to do their personal best.”
Keeping her students’ desire to learn alive is important to Luebbehusen. She’s always looking for activities and tools she can use to make the lessons more engaging and exciting.
In fractions, which her students are currently studying, that means a lot of manipulatives so that students can see the math in action. At their age, Luebbehusen said, her students are still at the concrete stage of development. They need to be able to see, touch and interact with their lessons. Sometimes, Luebbehusen said, she thinks that gets lost on legislators who set state education standards.
When Luebbehusen first started teaching, second-graders didn’t study multiplication or division. Now, her students are expected to know a handful of multiplication tables and some division. They’re also expected to think more abstractly and do some math in their heads, which Luebbehusen said not all second-graders are ready to do.
“Sometimes I think we push kids too far, too much at an early age,” she said.
A more advanced second-grade math curriculum is one of many changes Luebbehusen has seen over her career. When she first started teaching after earning an education degree from Indiana University, Haysville still had a school. Luebbehusen’s first full-time teaching post — she worked in Spencer County covering maternity leaves her first year — was at the small, rural school where she worked alongside one other staff member, the school’s principal.
“It was like ‘Little House on the Prairie,’” she said.
Back then, most of her students had a stay-at-home parent who helped them with their homework and gave them attention. Now, though, students with stay-at-home parents are the minority. The cultural shift affected the classroom. More kids seem to have behavioral problems now, and they all want more attention from the teachers than they used to.
“When they come to school, they want you to look at them, they want to talk to them, they want you to notice them,” Luebbehusen said.
The challenge is finding the balance between making sure each student’s needs are met while still teaching effectively.
Technology has also caused major changes in education during Luebbehusen’s career. When she started teaching in 1978, the internet had yet to be invented. Now, each of her students has a personal iPad that they use for daily lessons.
Luebbehusen is one of only a portion of teachers from her generation to embrace a more technological classroom. She remembers at first being afraid she’d break something if she pushed the wrong button. Now, though, she’s learned to evaluate new technological tools and see how they fit in with her instruction.
“I can’t avoid it. Either I have to learn it or retire, I guess,” she said. “I just feel like I’m too young to retire.”
She’s found a lot to like in education technology. With YouTube, she can find supplemental material for whatever she’s teaching, and apps like Epic and I XL allow for differentiated instruction that meets students where they are. Epic, for example, will read books to students if they need the help or allow advanced students to choose books at a higher reading level.
Luebbehusen is also proactive about finding cutting-edge learning tools for her students. Recently, she applied for and won a grant from Dubois REC to purchase Lego sets that come equipped with Bluetooth capabilities that make the pieces move after the students build them. It’s robotics, but at a second-grade level.
Although Luebbehusen has embraced technology, she worries about how the screen time will affect kids in the long run. With the rise in technology, she said, it seems like more of her students wear glasses and have posture issues from hunching over devices. With that in mind, she’s careful to make sure her students get the socialization that is key to helping them develop interpersonal skills.
“It’s not just sit down with technology and hide behind that,” she said. “They need to be social, too. Look up and say, ‘Hi.’”
Luebbehusen’s passion for her students and for teaching has made her a role model for both her students and her colleagues.
“She has been a rock-solid teacher that newer teachers look up to,” said Brenda Ferguson, principal of Dubois and Celestine elementary schools.
Looking back, Luebbehusen said she can’t imagine having chosen a different career. She’s amazed that she gets to come to school every day and teach, and when school is out on break, she finds herself getting bored.
“When I get up in the morning, I think, ‘Thank you Jesus for allowing me to come to school,’” she said. “I just love it.”
Now that’s she’s reached retirement age, she said people ask her almost weekly if retirement is on the horizon. Her answer is no. Not as long as her health holds up. She’s relatively sure she’s got several good years left, too. Her mother lived to be 87; her father 97. And her students help keep her feeling young and energized.
“I don’t feel like I’ve been teaching for 41 years,” she said. “Seventeen, maybe. I think it keeps you young.”
Luebbehusen lives in Jasper with her husband, Allen. The couple has six adult children.
This story is part of Featured Teachers, a monthly series that highlights educators in our community. To suggest an educator to be featured, email Education Reporter Leann Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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