reporter contentsalbright college
Sarel P. Fuchs, Ph.D., pictured in this late-70's photo, came to Albright in 1973 to begin a 40-career teaching education and classical languages. Fuchs will retire this spring.
"Qui Docet Discit"- Horace
With Professor Sarel P. Fuchs, Ph.D., what you see is not quite what you get.
Beneath that calm reserve and patrician exterior is a determined, passionate, complex, sensitive, and yes, funny woman who has been a champion of educational innovation and relentless in the pursuit of excellence. In fact, what Fuchs really wants to do is change the American educational system – one teacher at a time.
"People who know me out of class think perhaps I'm stern and forbidding. When they come into my class they discover I'm a lot of fun," she says cheerfully. "There is nothing I won't do to help students to understand." This includes teaching Latin verb endings by singing the Mickey Mouse theme song or taking them outside to blow off steam. "I'm an extrovert teacher and an introvert person," she says.
In 40 years at Albright, Fuchs has taught not only education but also classical languages, created a rigorous and highly respected education program, added elementary and special education certifications, and started the College's first graduate program, a master of arts or master of science in education. Along the way she has been a demanding mentor to thousands of students,
Fuchs was hired to teach education, but with both bachelor's and master's degrees in classics, she and office mate Professor Barbara Fahy, Ph.D., soon plotted to revive Latin at Albright. Latin has had steady enrollments ever since.
On Fuchs' living room wall is her motto, from Horace, "Qui docet discit," "Who teaches, learns.""I'm getting to be a better teacher all the time," Fuchs says with a smile, noting that teaching Latin"is easier than teaching teachers."
But teaching teachers is what Fuchs is really about. And she is clear that she intends for her teachers to be game changers and problem solvers who understand human nature, psychology and how systems work. "I absolutely, positively believe in the liberal arts as the underpinning of teacher training," she says. "You have to know what you are talking about."
Fuchs is both idealistic and intensely practical in her approach. "The first task is to teach them to survive," she says. "But I want a second piece to the training: Learn to move forward. Learn to make important changes. Don't copy what the last generation of teachers did. We all know it didn't work very well, so why model the training on that? Let's do some reading. Let's do some thinking, some experimentation. I want practical teachers, but I want the thinkers who can move and change and make things much better."
Before Fuchs lured him to Albright to teach, Joseph Yarworth, Ph.D., associate professor of education and chair, had been superintendent of both Muhlenberg and Schuylkill Valley school districts. "I always wanted the Albright/Dr. Fuchs prepared teachers," Yarworth says, "because they came with outstanding teaching skills as well as being well prepared in the content area they would teach."
Julia Vicente '90, superintendent of the Wyomissing School District, agrees. "I realized that my training as a teacher was very different from people who had gone to other colleges. I knew my content. I felt I knew my craft." Today, Vicente says, "much like Sarel, I am very picky. I am very mindful of who gets in front of my students. I hold spaces just for Albright teachers."
During her tenure, Fuchs continued to expand Albright's education curriculum with certifications in elementary and special education. For years she advocated for a master's program, and it was approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 2002. The liberal studies component of the program makes it unique among graduate programs, notes Yarworth. "In pure Sarel fashion," the program is also unique in that a student can complete both the master's degree and a certification. "This was an entirely new idea in 2002; now other institutions follow her lead," he says.
Graduate student Doug Conklin '12 says Albright graduates are more prepared to face the real challenges they will encounter after college. "My teacher friends from other schools often say, 'Wow, I really wish I had learned that in my education classes!'"
But even the best-prepared teachers are facing challenging times. The golden age for teachers in America ended a few years ago, Fuchs says. "The job gets harder every day," with lower earnings, longer hours, little support and fewer tangible benefits,
Sadly, Fuchs says, the problems are not with the schools but with society. "The schools are suffering because the family unit is decomposing," she says. She sees children who are not ready to come to school, and a lack of supportive home background.
On the bright side, Fuchs sees a turnaround in the next four years or so, although not without major changes. These changes include fixing the pension systems, longer school days, more cooperation among parents, teachers and administrators, and a
Exceptional, caring teachers are needed more than ever, Fuchs says. "It's a lot of giving," she says of teaching. "That's what students need most. Someone to listen to them."
According to her students, that is what they get from Professor Fuchs.
Trustee Nanette F. Cutrona '74 was the first student teacher Fuchs observed. Calling Fuchs"exceptionally astute and encouraging," Cutrona says, "I quickly discovered that Dr. Fuchs would accept nothing less than excellence from her students. I was never quite sure where I stood in her eyes, but I knew that I had to bring my 'A' game every day."
English major Stormy Russell '14 says, "In class, Dr. Fuchs is down to business, but knows when to laugh, even if it's at herself. When she discovered she had two English majors she pulled us aside and said, 'I don't know much about biology or algebra, but I do know English, and I'm going to be twice as hard on you because of this.' She had the ability to hone our skills even more than those of my classmates, and she took that opportunity and pushed us as hard as she could."
Yarworth says Fuchs' impact on schools in the region has been immense. "With the literally hundreds of teachers she prepared, the districts hired highly competent young professionals who had excellent teaching strategies, were comfortable with their professional responsibilities, and knew the content they had to teach."
Sarel Fuchs has been so engrossed in teaching and administrative duties that she has taken only one sabbatical in 40 years. This spring, she is taking her second and then will retire, sort of. "I agreed to teach Latin next fall," she says with a smile. "Qui docet discit," as Horace said.
reporter contentsalbright college