This article originally appeared in the Daily News on Oct. 7, 1999.
Tears welled in the eyes of Tim Barnhill, 10, as he shuffled into Faith Kline’s classroom to tell her he lost his keys in the schoolyard.
“Don’t worry, Tim,” she said as she hugged the sniffling boy. “We’ll find those keys and if we don’t, we’ll get you home, I promise.”
Then Kline, Tim, and his buddy, Leon Culbreath, 10, went out to the yard, which was strewn with litter. She made the boys stand 6 feet apart, gave them plastic bags and as they searched, they picked up trash. Kline, who chatted with the boys the entire time, even put her hands in dirty puddles of water to scoop out garbage. After about 20 minutes they covered the entire yard. They didn’t find the keys, but the yard was spotless and Tim was smiling.
“It’s about saying what you mean and doing it,” Kline said. "He knew I would help and that we would work this problem out. We didn’t find the keys, but we cleaned the yard. Now we’ll go call his grandmother and get him home. "
And she did.
Kline, 43, a curriculum support teacher at Anna Blakiston Day Elementary School in West Oak Lane, is the Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year.
“She is truly driven with an unburning fire that won’t stop,” said Elton Evans, dean of discipline at the school. "She’s an extremely effective teacher and the children love her. "
Kline, a charismatic woman who barely takes a breath when she speaks, has been at the school for three years.
Parents bring her lunch. Former students come by to visit. She stops teachers in the hall just to say that they are doing a good job. Her room is sort of half teacher’s lounge, which she’s decorated with her old furniture and curtains, and half reading, computer and study room — complete with geckos, a type of South African lizard.
Caroline Coney, 11, a former student, gave a speech for Kline during the teacher of the year competition in Harrisburg last Friday.
“She’s the best teacher I ever had,” Coney said. "If you didn’t get something, she would go over it with you. She’d keep helping you until you got it right. She goes out of her reach to do everything she can for her students. "
Kline is loaded with innovative ideas.
She believes all children can set goals and achieve if you help them. She believes if teachers worked just 15 minutes more a day to collaborate, they could make a difference for their students.
Her school day ends at 6 p.m. and then she goes home to the Northeast and works some more.
“It never ends. There is so much more that we can do,” Kline said. "I feel this passion to do as much as I can. Life is short and I want them to have the best opportunities. "
Born in Abington, Kline has wanted to be a teacher since she was in the second grade, but she got sidetracked. Her first job was as a secretary at a pharmaceutical company. After a while she decided she wanted to be around kids and got a job as a secretary in Abington High School. There, she fell in love with a teacher and they moved to Bloomsburg. When her two children started school she decided to go to college and get a teaching degree.
After the breakup of her marriage, she moved to rural Virginia and then to Philadelphia. She’s been a teacher for eight years and holds a bachelor’s degree from Bloomsburg University and a master’s from Cheyney University.
She lives in the Northeast with her daughter Kristin, 16. Her son, Richard, 19, is a student at St. Lawrence University.
If she wins the national competition, which is in Washington, D.C., in April, she would tour the world as a spokeswoman for public education.
“Public schools are going through a tough time now,” Kline said. "There are groups promoting charter schools, vouchers, and home schooling. The good news is that public schools are still working and meeting the needs of children. School reform is working and we need to invest heavily in it. "
AB Day School is on the corner of Johnson and Crittenden Streets. Twenty percent of the students live at a nearby shelter and a drug rehab center. There are 530 children in the school, which runs from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Principal Pamela Skyes said if Kline wins the national competition they may lose her for a while, but it would be worth it.