Substitute teacher brings learning to life | NevadaAppeal.com

Substitute teacher brings learning to life

by Maggie O'Neill

Bordewich-Bray Elementary School teacher Miyoko Loflin is a long-term substitute for a fifth-grade class. Loflin, who is from Japan, enjoys the curiosity of American students. Cathleen Allison Nevada Appeal

Never say substitute teachers have it easy.

When Miyoko Loflin’s last day as a long-term sub comes to an end in late November, she will have spent 13 weeks passionately teaching language arts, math, reading, social studies and science to fifth-grade students at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School.

“I will be very sad to leave,” she said. “It will be tough for me and the kids too.”

Loflin, 35, has taught the 26 fifth-grade students since the first day of school. Unlike a short-term sub, who use prepared lesson plans, Loflin is fully immersed in what she does.

Take fractions, for example.

She helps her students understand the difference between 1/3 and 1/4, say, by using a unique approach: The Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie technique.

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“Instead of asking which fraction is larger, 1/4 or 1/5, I’ll pass the pies out and have them cut them into three different parts and four different parts and ask them which is greater,” she said. “When you cut it by yourself, you can see the answer, instead of trying to understand it in broad terms. It helps students gain confidence.”

Loflin, who wants a full-time teaching position, has a master’s degree in education and is licensed to teach kindergarten through eighth grade. She has substitute taught for two years.

Her previous experience includes teaching English for five years in Japan at a private school near Nagoya, a city of 2 million, where she met her husband Jeff.

She and Jeff have lived in Carson City for two years and have a chocolate Labrador named Rossi, after Carlo Rossi wine.

Loflin said students in Japan are more respectful of their teachers than American students, but American students have assets too.

“I think in the states it’s great that kids are not afraid of voicing their opinions,” she said. “In Japan, the education system is you learn the facts and if you’re able to remember the facts, you are smart.”

Although she always considered her hometown of Anjo, Japan, population 150,000, a small city, she has rediscovered the meaning in Carson City: Less traffic and more outdoors. Since moving here two years ago, she has been fishing in California with Jeff and visited Idaho. She enjoys skiing and tennis.

“This is the perfect size city for me,” she said. “People are very friendly here. The tennis courts are free. We used to pay about $6 an hour (in Japan).”

Loflin believes it is her responsibility to discover her student’s learning styles, something that is a new trend in education, she said.

“There are multiple intelligences. Some students are linguistically talented, some are talented in math and some are good at drawing or making up songs.

“It’s not easy (to discover student’s learning styles), but it’s the part that I find most interesting. You have to spend time with the kids to find out what intelligence they strongly have and which style fits them.”

Before teaching in the U.S. and Japan, Loflin was a tour guide for the Japan Travel Bureau. She’s visited New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Europe, Africa and many other places.

“It really has benefited the student’s learning,” she said. “I can make learning fun. I myself believe learning is fun because there are so many things to see in this world.”

At the end of the school day, Loflin will sometimes call parents to tell them about their children’s accomplishments.

“I try to make as many phone calls to parents positive because they are so used to hearing negative things on the phone,” she said. “It makes the parents happy. And of course students love hearing their teacher called.”

When her last day comes Nov. 29, it will be tough on her. Students will have a regular teacher, but Loflin will be without a home to share her passion of teaching and her Oatmeal Cream Pies.

“I’m attached to the kids,” she said. “Three months is very long.”

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’neill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.