Retiring Ferrisburgh Central teacher was there at the start

FERRISBURGH — When Barbara Bolduc first entered Ferrisburgh Central School she wore a hard hat, and she was 6 years old. That was 61 years ago.
Bolduc had walked over with the rest of Doris Chamberlain’s students from the nearby one-room schoolhouse on Route 7. That school later served Ferrisburgh for decades as its town office, and when the pupils visited Ferrisburgh Central School they were touring a construction site.
Bolduc, of course, had no idea then she would later teach first  and second grade in Ferrisburgh Central School for 45 years, and that Chamberlain would become her colleague.
And as Bolduc sat down recently to discuss her impending retirement after four-and-a-half decades in FCS classrooms, she also said Chamberlain might have sown the seeds of her teaching career back on Route 7.
“It was a one-room schoolhouse. I thought that was the greatest,” Bolduc said. “She had to start the heat in the morning. She would play the piano at recess time when it rained outside, and we would sing and dance. She did the art and everything. She was so creative. And I’ll never forget A, E, I, O, U from her, because she would say that all the time. I just really enjoyed it a lot.”
But Bolduc, a Middlebury native whose family moved to Ferrisburgh when she was 5, did not as a teenager go to Castleton State College planning a teaching career. At first, she thought about dress or interior design, but those plans came with a drawback.
“I found out I probably would have to go to New York City for that, so I decided no,” Bolduc recalled. “Then I took a lot of courses, and I started taking education courses. And what really got me interested is when we went down to the Castleton school and we did some things with children, and it was so much fun and I learned a lot.”
She discovered she enjoyed herself and she could make a difference in young children’s lives. She recalled an incident while visiting the Castleton school, for example.
“There was one student, and she was having so much trouble, and they didn’t understand. And she was sitting across from me one day, and all of a sudden she could read my book and she couldn’t read her own,” Bolduc said. “She had a visual problem. She could read upside down, and nobody had noticed that before.”
Bolduc was hooked. She student-taught in Vergennes and Ferrisburgh schools, and for a required community project she naturally spent more time with kids by teaching Sunday School.
After Bolduc earned her Castleton degree, she was hired in Monkton, where she worked for a year before her FCS career.
“I was so excited to be teaching school,” she said. “I stood up at the chalk board and said I can’t believe I’m actually doing this.”
Then it was on to Ferrisburgh, where many of her former mentors welcomed her as a colleague.  
“Many of the teachers that were here I had had. I was 21,” Bolduc said. “I was so excited.”
She has spent 42 of those years teaching second-graders, with the other three years at the first-grade level. Bolduc said her heart lies more with the second-graders.
“Both grades are very delightful, but second-graders are a little more independent. You don’t have to tie their shoes. The children come into second grade and they’re reading picture books, and they get really excited when they start reading chapter books. I see a big change. They can actually pick up a book and get lost in reading,” Bolduc said.  
Of course, she has also seen many changes in education over the years.
“The pendulum swings,” Bolduc said. “We’ve had a lot of different programs, with phonics, and different programs with reading. I think the No Child Left Behind was a big change, although I found that in Ferrisburgh we always tried to make sure the kids really could do their very best. And I think with the Common Core, hopefully, that is going to work, too. I just hope that with the Common Core we’re not going to have to sacrifice some of the creative activities we’ve been doing.”
She believes that many students, “especially with certain learning styles,” benefit from including creativity in education.
“If you have a child that tends to be very artistic, if you can have something that it is very creative it helps to motivate them,” Bolduc said. “And even with math, math and art go very much together.”
Asked about highlights over her tenure, Bolduc talked of teaching the children of former students and mentioned class trips. The second grade used to travel to Parc Safari (“The monkeys weren’t very kind to the school bus.”) and the Granby Zoo in Quebec, to the Hannaford Career Center to learn how to make maple syrup, and to Fort Ticonderoga to study Ethan Allen’s famous raid.
At the fort, Bolduc recalled, “The kids would ask some really good questions, like, ‘Where exactly did he come in, anyway? What really happened?’”
But she looks back most fondly on what happened on a daily basis — the learning in her classroom, the parent volunteers, and her friendly collaboration with her colleagues.
“I really enjoyed teaching school a lot, especially the students,” she said. “Their creativity and watching them read. They do projects once they can read, and they research different projects and relate it to art and music. We always have a writing piece to go with it, and sometimes we do dioramas to go with it.”
But now demands from another set of children are increasing. Also almost 45 years ago she married Peter Bolduc, with whom she has lived on a New Haven Junction dairy farm since 1973.
And they have three children, Jamie, Angie and Christopher, and seven grandchildren, who live in either New Haven, Danby or New Hampshire. It’s time for those grandchildren to get more of her attention, Bolduc said.
“I have seven grandchildren and I want to spend more time with them,” she said. “We can travel around a little more and see them.”
As much as Bolduc is looking forward to fulfilling that plan, making the decision was still difficult.
“I think it’s going to be very hard. I’m going to miss the kids the most, but also working with other teachers. We’ve become such friends. I even find during vacation you get out of this routine and you really miss being with the kids. But I know I can always volunteer,” she said. “But everyone tells me you’ll be so glad. You’ll be so busy. We’ll wait and see, because I’ve been teaching for a very long time. It doesn’t seem possible.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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