Re­nais­sance wo­man of Rocky Plains

Teacher learned her class­room de­meanor in New York City

The Covington News - - School Beat - By Josh Briggs

Natalie Ochs is a re­nais­sance wo­man of sorts. As a fifth grade teacher and grade chair at Rocky Plains El­e­men­tary School, Ochs pos­sesses a doc­tor­ate in cur­ricu­lum de­vel­op­ment, has taught in three di­versely dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments and has trav­eled all over the world.

Ad­mit­tedly, Ochs en­joyed her col­lege ex­pe­ri­ence and said she wasn’t ready to leave Auburn Univer­sity when she grad­u­ated, so she spent a year on cam­pus work­ing with the foot­ball pro­gram and the NCAA.

“But I was ex­cited about teach­ing and was ready to get into my ca­reer,” she said.

Ochs started teach­ing in the Coweta County school sys­tem, where she spent one year. But shortly af­ter, her ex-hus­band re­ceived a job op­por­tu­nity and the cou­ple moved to New York.

Ochs taught for two years in the New York Pub­lic School Sys­tem and said she had to adapt to teach­ing in an en­vi­ron­ment so dif­fer­ent from Ge­or­gia.

“When I moved back and I taught in At­lanta, what I learned up there worked well for me,” Ochs said. “When I was in New York, I had to be ag­gres­sive. But I could sur­vive in that type of en­vi­ron­ment be­cause I could stand up for my­self.”

Ochs said she re­ceived plenty of be­wil­dered looks when she first ar­rived in the Big Ap­ple, but stu­dents and par­ents quickly got used to her south­ern ac­cent.

Ochs is proud of her south­ern roots but ad­mits the men­tal­ity in New York gave her a re­fresh­ing view of they way peo­ple in­ter­act and go about their daily lives.

“New York­ers are just peo­ple too, but it’s dif­fer­ent up there,” she said “Peo­ple are just busy and they’re go­ing to tell you ex­actly what they think. But they don’t hold grudges like south­ern peo­ple do.

“I love be­ing South­ern, but some­times it’s a waste of time and en­ergy when peo­ple just don’t come out and say what they want.”

The two years spent in New York were an ex­pe­ri­ence Ochs said she’ll never for­get. Look­ing back at it, she has fond mem­o­ries and even yearns to re­turn from time-to-time.

“There are times when I miss NewYork, es­pe­cially the hol­i­days,” she said. “Peo­ple are so nice. It’s like Dis­ney­World there.”

When she re­turned to Ge­or­gia, she taught in the At­lanta City School Sys­tem be­fore mov­ing to New­ton County in 2003.

Liv­ing in New York also fu­eled an ap­petite to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent cul­tures.

“We travel, travel, travel; we’re travel-aholics,” she said re­fer­ring to her­self and hus­band William. “We’ve been all over Europe. Italy in gen­eral, we are just in love with.”

Ochs, who is seven months preg­nant with her first child, said she al­most had the op­por­tu­nity to move to Geneva, Switzer­land.

“Right af­ter I found out I was preg­nant, my hus­band had a job of­fer and we al­most moved,” she said. “Iwould live in an­other coun­try in a heart­beat. I just think it’s good to see the­world and get out of a box. Who knows what the fu­ture will bring.”

With 20 days left in the school year, Ochs’ stu­dents have taken the Ge­or­gia Cri­te­rion Ref­er­ence Com­pe­tency Test. And while she un­der­stands the chil­dren are antsy in an­tic­i­pa­tion of sum­mer, she still has lessons to teach.

“Westill­havethen­ovel‘Hatchet’ to read and I’m re­ally ex­cited about that,” she said. “But along with that, we’re pre­par­ing them more for sixth grade. We’ve com­mu­ni­cated with the sixth grade teach­ers about things th­ese stu­dents should have mas­tered be­fore they get there.”

With the de­mands of No Child Left Be­hind, Ochs said school sys­tems are ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent pro­grams and im­ple­ment­ing creative sched­ules in an at­tempt to hit on some­thing that works.

Like so many fel­low ed­u­ca­tors, Ochs feels the fed­er­ally man­dated ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy has taken away from sev­eral im­por­tant as­pects of ed­u­cat­ing el­e­men­tary stu­dents.

“We are down to one 30 minute re­cess a week,” she said. “That is just not enough time for th­ese kids. They need to get out and work off some en­ergy. It’s amaz­ing to me.”

Ochs un­der­stands ac­count­abil­ity is needed in the school sys­tems. She hopes the new pres­i­dent will re­work theNCLBpol­icy to make it more ac­cu­rately re­flect school and teacher per­for­mance.

“What’s hard is find­ing a bal­ance of what they want you to do be­cause some­times the ex­pec­ta­tions aren’t re­al­is­tic,” Ochs said.

In the mean­time, Ochs en­joys read­ing with her stu­dents and help­ing new teach­ers get their feet wet.

“I see my­self teach­ing for a long time,” said Ochs. “I don’t know if it’s some­thing I’ll do un­til the end ofmy­ca­reer. I’d like to teach teach­ers and I don’t know that I’d ever want to get into ad­min­is­tra­tion, but you never know.”

Josh Briggs/The Cov­ing­ton News

South­ern charm, big city flare: Natalie Ochs, fifth grade teacher at Rocky Plains El­e­men­tary has taught in three dif­fer­ent school sys­tems and has trav­eled ex­ten­sively in Europe.

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