BETHEL — A small group of junior and senior boys clustered around Bob O’Brien as he drew a plan for a lesson on gravitational and kinetic (or motion) energy.

The lab table has a pool ball stuck to a string which in turn is attached to a 2- or 3-foot stationary device.

The boys will experiment with how fast the ball will fall from the table using gravity, then how far and fast the ball will swing from the stationary device.

The lab is all in a day’s work in Sarah Southam’s physics class at Telstar High School.

O’Brien, a 35-year veteran of teaching science at a private school in Cambridge, Mass., is doing his student teaching.

“I’m as old or older than most of the teachers here,” O’Brien said.

Certification wasn’t required at the the Buckingham Browne Nichols Day School in Massachusetts, but it is in public Maine schools.

O’Brien and his wife, Michaela Casey, a part-time teacher of English as a second language at Gould Academy in Bethel, made the permanent move to Maine, in Albany Township, nearly two years ago. The couple had been visiting the state since 1987 and both loved it.

They built a home in Albany Township, and get their electricity through solar energy.

O’Brien said he had always wanted to teach in a public school, and to do that, he had to earn his certification. He has taken courses, and under supervising teacher Southam and the University of Maine at Machias, he will be certified at the end of the school year.

Southam said the two teachers learn from each other. One may have presented a lab experience that the other hadn’t, and vice versa.

“I’m learning just as much as Bob is. The students are adjusting fine and they have more one-on-one attention,” said the 24-year teaching veteran whose husband, Peter, teaches at Gould Academy.

Having an older than traditional student teacher didn’t faze the students, either.

When O’Brien and Casey moved to the area, both volunteered to tutor students at Telstar who needed extra help. They tutored in science, math and English, and helped foreign exchange students improve their English. And O’Brien has substitute taught, as well.

“They’ve been very helpful and gracious,” Principal Dan Hart said. “It’s very rare that someone comes in to volunteer. I can’t thank him enough.”

O’Brien is pleased, too.

Public school students aren’t much different than private school students, he said.

There are bells at Telstar, which there weren’t at Buckingham, and no one said the pledge at Buckingham. The Cambridge students were of a different socio-economic group and more diversified.

But, he said, both schools have a culture of doing well.

O’Brien could have been hired at a Maine school, then taught for a year to gain his certification. However, schools are less likely to hire an uncertified teacher because there are generally plenty of certified teachers to meet school needs.

O’Brien doesn’t have a full-time teaching job lined up yet for next fall, but he’s hopeful.

“It’s good to be back in the classroom,” he said.

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