August 27, 2008

2 Teachers, 2 Generations

By Meadows, Robyn

In the quiet hour before the children arrive for the first day of school at Centerville Elementary, teachers grab their mail, greet office staff and stroll to their classrooms. This first day is a "piece of cake" for veterans like David Weaver, who has taught at Centerville for 35 years.

Today is the first day of school for 11 public districts across the county, including Hempfield.

But when fifth-grade language arts teacher Erin Settle, in just her second year of teaching, is asked if she feels nervous, her smile disappears.

"Yes," she replies.

She woke up during the night worried that her alarm would fail.

Settle, however, does feel at home at Centerville.

She should.

Settle, who is 27, was a student at Centerville. In fact, Weaver, her mentor during her first year of teaching, was her fifth-grade teacher.

This year, Weaver officially stops being Settle's mentor.

But for her, he will always be.

"He's pretty much a legend around here," she says. "Everyone wanted to have Mr. Weaver as a teacher, including me."

Weaver has the utmost confidence in Settle's ability as she starts her second year.

"She really has a knack for it," he says. "I hope she sticks with (teaching)."

Settle, whose maiden name was Birunas, graduated from Hempfield in 1999, then earned a bachelor's degree in political science at Villanova University, where she played volleyball for five years.

Afterward, through Boston College, she went to New Zealand for four months and worked in a kindergarten center.

It was there that she realized she wanted to teach. So Settle returned and went to Millersville University for two years to earn a teaching certificate.

When she applied at Hempfield, she had no idea she would end up working at her old elementary school, and much less work with Weaver.

After she was hired, "He had called me, and said, 'Hi, this is Dave.' I said to myself, 'No, wait, this is Mr. Weaver.' It's a little weird to call him by his first name."

Weaver, who has the uncanny ability to recognize former students decades later when he runs into them, remembers Settle vividly.

"I had her in my homeroom," he says. "She was quite energetic. She had a lot of personality. She was really a good kid."

A good kid who got in trouble.

"More than once," he says.

"When you were in trouble, you knew it," she says. "He is famous for his booming voice."

But it's Weaver's charm that plays a part in how much the children love him and love learning from him. Weaver, who teaches social studies and math, wears a "funny" tie every day of the year.

Today, for example, he's wearing one with calculations on it such as 2 2=4.

In her first year, Weaver helped Settle on the fundamentals of teaching such as mastering curriculum and preparing students for the state assessment test, the PSSA. But it's the life lessons that will stick with her throughout her teaching career, she says.

He has told me "to enjoy my job, and that I have to laugh and know that things will work out."

"He loves his job, and he loves his kids, and that inspires me," says Settle, whose husband, Jake, teaches at the high school.

Weaver, who is 56, began teaching at Centerville in 1973.

He had planned to teach for a few years and then move into administration.

"Then, I realized I don't like their job, and I like mine," he says. "They don't seem to have as much fun as I can have in mine."

Centerville Principal, Janet Baer, says, "He is probably one of the most beloved teachers across the entire district."

Every year, the kids can't wait also to participate in the Christmas play with him. Weaver has directed it for three decades.

"He is a compassionate, caring teacher, and he expects only the best out of his kids," Baer said.

There has been talk around the Hempfield School District that Weaver might retire at the end of this year. He has until March to decide.

Weaver says he's undecided.

Born in Lebanon County, Weaver came to Lancaster County as a student at Millersville University.

He lives in West Hempfield Township with his wife, Colleen, a fourth-grade teacher at Farmdale Elementary.

They have a 24-year-old daughter, who lives in Maryland, and a 19- year-old son, who is a student at Penn State.

Both graduated from Hempfield.

While his colleagues tend to heap high praise on Weaver, he shrugs the kudos aside.

"There are certainly a whole lotmore knowledgeable and better teachers than me," he says. "I'm just an average guy."

According to all who know him, that makes him an average guy who knows how to make math class fun.

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