Child study teacher Albina Papows leaves a long legacy


Maria Kotob

Mrs. Papows poses by the Dr. Seuss mural she and her sister painted on her classroom wall.

MARIA KOTOB, Staff Writer, Editor

After 34 years of teaching  the child study program at Gloucester High School, the beloved Albina Papows is retiring this year.  Her complete dedication to the program, and to her students, is apparent to all who have ever entered her classroom.

Her love for children sprouted from when she was young, helping teachers with other students in her classes, babysitting, and her nurturing sense of care. This grew into something much bigger than just babysitting and helping her peers, it contributed to what she would do for the rest of her life.

Once she graduated from Salem State with an elementary education degree and a minor in fine arts, Papows began her first job at Landmark School teaching teenagers who were dyslexic math, reading, and art. When a job opened at O’Maley to be a Title 1 teacher, she took the job and remained for the few years the program was available until the budget was cut and she was moved to Fuller School as the reading teacher.

Her next few years consisted of moving from there to becoming a part time project adventure teacher at O’Maley and part time assistant for the child study program at the high school, all within a six-year time span since she graduated college. Once the full time job opened up, she was hired to be the new Child Study teacher in 1983 and has been there for the last 34 years.

Papows has known since she was young that she was meant to be a teacher, whether it be for young kids like she had hoped, or teenagers as she does now.

“I think it was my fate in life to become a teacher. Even when I was in elementary school the teachers would always ask me to help with the other kids all of the time,” said Papows. “I’ve always loved children. No matter where I was I always played with children and I babysat a lot when I was young so it seemed like a perfect fit for me.”

A question many people ask themselves as they grow out of their job is if they had any regrets. For many, it would have been to work for a higher paying job, to do a profession they loved, or to have worked less. But for Papows, she would not have done anything differently. Every aspect of her job brought her joy, and she has no regrets towards the decisions she has made over the years.

“Every single experience I had made me a better teacher. I never thought I would be teaching upperclassman. I went to school to be an elementary school teacher  but you know what, it has been a great ride. And I wouldn’t change any of it,” said Papows. “I had the best job in the world because I had the best of both worlds. I had teenagers and preschoolers. And sometimes there was no difference between the two but it was a great opportunity and I loved every minute of it.”

With all of the benefits that comes with teaching, to pick a favorite can be a difficult decision. But for Papows, she did not have to think twice about her answer.

“My favorite thing here has definitely been the students, all the different kinds of kids. I also loved working with my colleagues, we have a very talented staff here.”

As a teacher, it can be difficult to remember each student you have, especially with high school where teachers have five classes with different students in each. But if one is capable of impacting their students positively, the students won’t ever forget. For Papows, this is a consistent occurrence.

“I have so many funny stories that happened in preschool. But also a lot of nice things happen when you’re out in the community. I would be out on the boulevard,  a kid would be walking by me, stop and go ‘Hey Ms. Papows it’s me so-and-so, I just want you to know I got my GED, I wouldn’t have graduated without you. Thank you for your help.’ They feel like they gotta tell me that they’re okay, that they did alright because I had a lot of at-risk kids,” said Papows. “They didn’t have the support at home, so they needed me to help. People out of college would always tell me that going to Ms. Papows’ was like going home for lunch, I thought that was very nice. “

To work at the high school for 34 years, Papows has seen a change within the school that most teachers are incapable of seeing for themselves. Although the building itself has not undergone much change, the education and rules have improved greatly, and Ms. Papows has been here to see it for herself.

“I’ve had 6 principals while working here. Since then, students have a lot more freedom than they did when I first worked here. The method of teaching has changed, which is for the better I think. I love that we teach students to problem solve and think more instead of just the teacher lecturing and the students spitting back out the information to you,” said Papows. “The students are made to think and to analyze the information and be part of the whole process and the teacher isn’t the only one who gets the information out to the students. They gain knowledge for themselves too. It’s a collaboration between the teacher and the student, which I think is great.”

During her 34 years of working at GHS, her impact on students has been apparent, as students who graduate from her classes grow into skillful caretakers, teachers, or even doctors.

“A lot of students that were in the child study program have become teachers. There are many many that are now in the Gloucester school system. Others work in other systems. I have students that keep in touch with me that have already gone through college, ones that are in college, and they’re all studying to be teachers. And others have gone onto the medical field, psychology, and anything to do with children,” said Papows. “I’m glad I had a little hand in that.

“Being in her class was very useful and a great experience,” said recent GHS graduate Maggie Destino.  “She is a great teacher who taught me a lot. She cares about her students and she cares about them getting their work done right away,” said Destino. “She’s a teacher who actually does care for you to get a good grade and is always open to give you an idea and constructive criticism.”

Papows says she could not have gotten through the years without her assistant, Ms. Reyes.

“I would also like to mention my aid, Ms. Reyes. Since I’ve been in the child study program, she has been my third one. She has been with me the longest. This program wouldn’t have been this successful without her help,” said Papows. “She keeps me organized and in line and was always there for the shy kids, she always reminded me to not push these kids if they’re shy, not everyone can get up there and be like like me. She has always been good with that. It was great to have two people in here. Now she has to move on and find another job, too.”

Unfortunately, the child study program will not continue next year after Papows retires. “It’s a shame that they cut this program from the budget. This was a great vocational program that girls could take.”

Once the school year officially ends, she will be spending her time at the YMCA, travelling, spending time with her grandson, and painting. She hopes to spend more time on art because she has put it on hold for a while and would like to get back into it.