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Teacher Day: 45 years in, Watertown High School’s Dee Shear isn’t slowing down

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Even after teaching for 45 years, Dee L. Shear at Watertown High School isn’t slowing down.

For Shear, who has spent 22 of her 45 years in the same class in the Watertown City School District, the classroom is her happy place. She said being an educator is something she always wanted. She used to play school with her siblings, then fell in love with the real thing.

“It was just one place where I flourished,” she said.

Tuesday marks National Teacher Day during National Teacher Appreciation Week, when teachers across the country are being recognized for their hard work.

Shear previously worked for the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services and for 10 years in the alternative high school program.

At Watertown, she has taught both English and journalism.

Shear’s impact on her students can be felt throughout the north country. She said she recently received an email from a former student whose mother died the year they were in Shear’s class. They told her that they wouldn’t have made it through those years if not for her.

Getting that email brought joy to Shear, she said.

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Watertown City School District holds winter celebration for students and teachers

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Watertown City School District students at Case Middle School were busy on the final day before holiday break decorating, painting and making holiday cookies.

Students got to choose which activities they wanted to do with what interests them — watch a movie, do crafts, use the weight room, play basketball and more.

There were three transitional periods with the first one starting around 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

Some of the events were holiday themed, others were not.

Case Principal Erin King said that part of the reason it’s important to have this break from the traditional school day is because December can be a long month for students.

“We really like kids to be able to take a break from that normal schedule for them,” she said. “A lot of people look forward to the holidays, but not necessarily everybody. And some of our kids don’t necessarily look forward to the vacation as much as everybody does, and so this is just kind of a way for our family to take a break and enjoy one another before we head off into that holiday.”

She said some children enjoy “the safety of school” with their friends and the staff at Case Middle School.

“It’s difficult for them to be away from the safety of school and the community of school,” she said. “This is a nice way to celebrate together in a non-traditional school setting way.”

King said they have also done a holiday sale for the kids, in which kids can use the “Case Cash” that they earn through good behavior.

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Watertown High School teacher helped by students after February fall

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Normally in a school setting, a teacher is helping out students.

But on Feb. 15, after Watertown High School English teacher Allison M. Gilliam took a fall before morning announcements and hit her head on the corner of her desk, students jumped in to help her, spearheaded by 18-year-old senior Elijah B. Kekuewa and another student.

Elijah said he sits next to her desk, and Ms. Gilliam walked into the room and noticed that her television, which shows the clock and rotating messages of what is going on in the school, was already on.

He said her foot caught and she tripped. She fell and hit her face on the corner of the desk.

“I tried to ask her if she was OK and she said that she had a headache, so I went around her desk and I just dialed in the number and called down to the office and asked for help,” Elijah said.

When he called the office, he said that he told the office that Ms. Gilliam had fallen, and the office said they would send a staff member up to help. They then called a code blue.

Ms. Gilliam was surprised when they called a code blue.

“I literally said, ‘I’m not dying, I just need a nurse, just somebody to help me because I think I’m bleeding,'” she said.

He said when he noticed Ms. Gilliam was in distress, he got up and helped.

“I got up like I expect any person to do, and decided to help her,” he said. “It was just kind of like first instinct.”

Elijah said he was able to remain calm because of what he has been forced to deal with in his life.

“My past has a huge reflection on who I am today as a person,” he said. “The past me wouldn’t have reacted like that … truthfully I would’ve been shook.”

He said he was worried about his teacher, to the point where he asked Principal Chad Fairchild if he knew how Ms. Gilliam was doing, because he wanted to visit her if she was still in the hospital.

Another teacher said she had heard from Ms. Gilliam and that she wanted to pass on the word that she was OK and she’d be back in school the next day.

“All I remember telling myself is, ‘Wow, this lady’s a god, a goddess,'” Elijah said.

“I think (Ms. Gilliam) sees the best in me and wants the best for me, and she sees that I’m pushing myself so hard to try to get out of school this year to graduate, that she’s just trying to be my support,” he added.

Elijah said he felt like the interaction brought them closer, although he said he’s always liked Ms. Gilliam because she is energetic.

Ms. Gilliam said she has an orbital fracture of the right eye, and had a concussion. She was taken to the hospital by Assistant Principal Leslie Atkinson, and released that day.

“The fact that these kiddos remained very calm, and poised, and knew exactly what to do and did it without any sort of practice, or anything like that, that they had the presence and the mindset to do what they did, just blew me away,” Ms. Gilliam said. “It made me incredibly grateful, and thankful that I have the students that I have, because it showed me that these kids actually care about me as their teacher, that they were incredibly serious about making sure I got assistance and help.”

Ms. Gilliam said it was a team effort by her first-period class that was spearheaded by Elijah and another student.

One student ran out in the hallway to get help, Elijah called down to the office, another student made sure no one was recording a video or taking pictures, and students were coming up to her asking her if she was OK.

Ms. Gilliam said that if the students weren’t there, she probably would’ve just gotten help for herself.

“There is almost zero chance that that would’ve happened with this group of kids because there were others in here that would have jumped into action had those two not,” she said. “The fact that it was those two, doesn’t shock me because the other student I’m also very close with … I know that there would’ve been other students in the class that would’ve done that.”

She said that if it was an off-period where she doesn’t have students, she would’ve called herself.

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