Pocahontas County High School recognized special education teacher Darlene Arbo- gast as November Teacher of the Month.
When Arbogast left her position at Hillsboro Elementary School to become special education teacher at PCHS four years ago, it was not a small fish in a big pond kind of situation. Arbogast was well prepared for the shift and jumped right in as a teacher, coach and club sponsor.
While she always knew she wanted to be a teacher, Arbogast never thought she would be a special educator.
“I sort of evolved into that,” she said. “My daughter has a learning disability and so just fighting for things for her and understanding the laws is what sort of made me lean that way. Actually, my first ever sub position was as a long term sub in the special education department at Marlinton Middle School and it was really rough. I swore – never, ever. Well, never say never.
“I love it,” she continued. “Just these special kids and making sure that they succeed.”
Along with working with students in the classroom, Arbogast is also the cheerleading coach as well as sponsor for Tribe, RAZE and SADD clubs.
“I sort of inherited those clubs,” she said. “I chose to do RAZE. Then last year, Cheryl Jonese started SADD here, and there were about five students, so we decided this year to put RAZE and SADD together because it was a lot of the same kids. Then I inherited the Tribe because Mali Minter actually headed that up. When she retired last year, I took over.”
RAZE is an anti-tobacco club and SADD stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions, so it made sense to combine the clubs into one big effort to teach students to avoid using tobacco, drugs and alcohol, as well as avoid bullying and other destructive life choices.
The Tribe is a spirit club for students who attend athletic events to ensure the Warriors always have support, whether they are at a home or away.
“I really enjoy both clubs,” Arbogast said. “They’re both very, very active. My Tribe has about thirty-five, forty kids that attend our club meetings regularly and at ballgames, there’s lots and lots of kids.”
The RAZE and SADD club has grown from around 16 students to 35 members this year. The members organize different events at the school and post signs around the school to educate students about the dangers of destructive behavior.
“We’ve done a whole lot more with the activities and getting involved with the community,” Arbogast said. “We try to do something every Friday. Whether it’s just something fun in the gym, some kind of recruitment or just talking to the kids.”
Arbogast said she is proud of the work the students have put into the clubs and has seen positive results at the school.
“I’m seeing that we’re having less issues with smokeless tobacco,” she said. “Kids talking to kids is way better than me talking to kids because they get through to each other. I can stand up there and preach to them forever and they’re just going to tune me out.”
The good thing is, Arbogast doesn’t tune the kids out and when they come to her with ideas or issues they think the clubs should address, she let’s them take the lead and go with it.
“We’re definitely seeing a decline and making them think about bullying,” she said. “That was one of the things that I wouldn’t have really thought about, but our students actually said, ‘I hear people talking in the hallways and they call people names.’ We started an initiative about name calling and things like that. They took it, they rolled with it and I just let them go.”
When it comes to being recognized for her efforts, Arbogast is pleased.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “We’ve done a lot up here. It’s nice to be recognized. A lot of teachers need to be recognized for all their hard work.”