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A Family That Teaches Together Talks Shop

Originally published on August 26, 2011 10:20 am

When classes begin at Leith Walk Elementary School in Baltimore on Monday, teacher Robin Weems will meet her new first-grade students. And she won't be alone: Her husband, a retired Marine, is her classroom assistant.

And just across the hall from the Weems' first-grade class is their son Jason's classroom, where he teaches kindergarten.

Recently, the husband-and-wife teaching team sat down to speak with Jason about their unique work arrangement.

"She does the teaching. I do the decorating, paperwork ... whatever law enforcement's needed," Warren says with a laugh.

"You add an air of excitement," Robin says. "Especially the boys, you know, they just hang on every word that you say. They love for you to read stories to them. Whereas if I was reading it, you know — 'Mrs. Weems is reading, so what!' "

"I tell them while they're there, I'm their father, grandfather and whatever else. We have this thing on the wall, we call it the classroom family. And I have pictures of myself, my wife and Jason, and then I have a picture of all the children on the door, so they all feel part of the family, you know."

"Pop, you've been a teacher to me, to countless other people, and it's not always in the traditional sense of the word," Jason says. "What brought you to teaching?"

"Well, I had a fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Lizt. And she wrote on my report card — I still have it: 'Warren is severely handicapped,' or something like that. And that made me so mad! I failed the fifth grade. And then Ms. Berbridge, she took me under her wing and showed me that I wasn't severely handicapped. And I always will remember her."

"What I do," Warren says, is "I sit back and I figure out what each one of the children's needs are."

"I do it voluntarily now. For, what, seven, nine years — I haven't missed a day," he says. "I didn't even miss a day when she missed a day, because I know if I leave the room for one minute, the class changes."

"So what keeps you doing it, year after year?" Jason asks.

"I guess what keeps me going at it is the way you and Jamal turned out. So if I can just do that for someone else ... " Warren says.

"Because I am just so blessed that I had the sons that I have," he continues, "so I feel that it's my obligation to give back, you know. And the rewards are worth it."

Produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher and Brian Reed.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Time now for StoryCorps. And today's conversation comes from Baltimore. Classes begin at Leith Walk Elementary School on Monday, and Robin Weems will be there to greet her new first-grade students. Robin's husband, Warren, who's a retired marine, will also be there. Warren is his wife's classroom assistant. The husband and wife teaching team sat down to speak with their son Jason for StoryCorps.

WARREN WEEMS: She does the teaching. I do the decorating, paperwork, whatever law enforcement is needed.

ROBIN WEEMS: You add an air of excitement. Especially the boys, you know, they just hang on every word that you say. They love for you to read stories to them. Whereas if I was reading it, you know - Mrs. Weems is reading, so what!

WEEMS: I tell them while they're there, I'm their father, grandfather and whatever else. We have this thing on the wall, we call it the classroom family. And I have pictures of myself, my wife and Jason, and then I have a picture of all the children on the door, so they all feel part of the family, you know.

JASON WEEMS: Pop, you've been a teacher to me, to countless other people, and it's not always in the traditional sense of the word. What brought you to teaching?

WEEMS: I do it voluntarily now - for what seven, nine years, I haven't missed a day. I didn't even miss a day when she missed a day, because I know if I leave the room for one minute, the class changes.

WEEMS: So what keeps you doing it, year after year?

WAREEN WEEMS: I guess what keeps me going at it is the way that you and Jamal turned out. So if I can just do that for someone else.

WEEMS: Someone else.

WEEMS: Because I am just so blessed that I had the sons that I have, so I feel like it's my obligation to give back. The rewards are worth it.

MONTAGNE: Warren Weems and his wife Robin and their son Jason in Baltimore, Maryland. And it really is a family affair. Jason teaches kindergarten in a classroom right across the hall from his parents. Their story will be archived at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress, and you can get a Podcast at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.