“Teaching has been my life ambition. Today, after 23 years, it still is. No doubt there are tough days, but when I reflect on those moments, I realize I’ve been given an opportunity to look at a challenge from a different view point and get in there and try again. Perseverance is the gift teaching has given me. However, what keeps me coming back, is the children. My students are my greatest inspiration. I Struggle when they struggle, I laugh when they laugh, I cry when they cry but best of all, I accomplish when they accomplish. As a special education teacher, I’m fortunate to spend multiple years with my students and we become our own unique “school family”. As with every family we have good times and bad, struggles and celebrations but at the root of every bond and every memory is LOVE. Mother Theresa’s quote expresses what is in my heart: “It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into the doing that counts. I am truly grateful to have such an exceptional career.” –Bobbi Larrivee
Barbara “Bobbi” Larrivee teaches special education at West Homer Elementary, grades 3-6. The subjects she teaches are all academics, plus life and social skills. She’s been a teacher for 21 years, 18 of which have been in Alaska.
It’s worth pointing out that Bobbi was nominated for this award by many of her fellow teachers and her principal, most of whom wrote long, heartfelt testimonials to what a dedicated, loving teacher she is. One teacher wrote, “She teaches some of the most challenging students in the school, and she does it with the biggest heart and a warm smile on her face.”
Bobbi grew up in rural Montana, where she attended a three-room school with eight grades. After middle school, she was bused 25 miles to a high school where she suddenly had 400 kids in her class. She worked while going to school. One of her jobs was as a childcare attendant for a church, and another put her on the support staff for a women’s group home. She says, “Those experiences started my lifelong connection with children and special education.”
She graduated early and moved to Seattle, where she worked with adults who experience deafness and blindness. But her heart was working with children, so being well accustomed to working and going to school, she pursued her childhood education degree while working full-time.
As we know, life often has other plans for us. Bobbi had a family and it was nearly 15 years after she graduated high school that she achieved her bachelor degree in elementary education–with honors–from University of Montana. She moved to beautiful Homer, Alaska, where she owned and operated a pre-K program for 12 years. In 2008, she joined the district as a teacher.
Again pursuing education while working, in 2011, she completed a master’s degree in education through the arts.
Her varied and deep experience has made her a tremendously caring teacher. One of her fellow teachers wrote, “The students Bobbi serves will be young adults in the community soon. She strives to help them all be functional and contributing members, with skills ranging from self-regulation to self-help.”
Bobbi works hard to find ways to reach her students, and devise teaching techniques that will encourage them to be involved in learning. Her lessons are often not necessarily academic–because she knows that once a student learns to enjoy learning–even if it’s learning to play a ukulele or yoga–he or she will be able to apply that love of learning to any other subject.
As another coworker wrote, “Bobbi is a well-loved and respected teacher among her peers at school and, despite her demanding schedule, she is the first to sign up for a committee. She will often say to her colleagues, ‘Let’s do this. We can do this, you guys!”
“Ms. Larrivee contributes to the positive school culture at West Homer Elementary in a number of ways,” said Eric Waltenbaugh, principal. “She is an important voice on our PBIS Team and works tirelessly to create systems schoolwide to support students’ social emotional growth and development. She heads up the Sunshine Committee making sure everyone in the building feels recognized and valued for their contributions. At staff meetings and professional development opportunities she helps guide our decisions with all students in mind. As an Intensive Needs Teacher, one challenge she faces daily is designing and delivering programing for a diverse groups of students. She has a true gift in the ability to understand students and provide them what they need. She supports and trains her aides to be highly effective with some of the most challenging students in the school, and she persists in finding ways for all her students to be successful. Earlier this year her students practiced and performed a play for regular education classes. She found the right roles for each of her students so they could shine. Throughout the performance, the audience of regular education students cheered for each of the actors as they demonstrated their skill on stage. What a wonderful way to help her students feel the success of their hard work and have the rest of the school view their achievements. While she is truly a gifted educator, she continues to welcome feedback from peers modeling her value of being a life-long learner.”
That pretty well sums up Barbara’s wonderful spirit.
This year’s nominees were again, an excellent representation of our staff as a whole,” said Sean Dusek, superintendent. “They are humble, hard-working and student-centered. They are willing to go above and beyond to help students succeed and reach their full potential.”
“BP is proud to honor these great teachers and their tireless work in the classroom,” said BP Alaska Regional President Janet Weiss. “We see it as part of our ongoing commitment to the communities where our people live and work – and an investment in the people who help make Alaska great.”
- Stephanie Cronin, Seward High School
- Jonathan Dillon, Mountain View Elementary School
- Barbara Larrivee, West Homer Elementary School
- Meredith McCullough, Kenai Central High School
- Colby Way, Port Graham School
Congratulations, Barbara Larrivee, BP Teacher of Excellence!