Hometown: Oil City, Pennsylvania
Education: University of Virginia—B.A., Hollins University—M.A.
Year Appointed: 1995
Current Position: Faculty—First Grade
Although her time in Europe was exciting, Ms. Cook wanted to be closer to her family, especially her sister, Maggie, who was living in Roanoke with her family. She decided to move back to Virginia and enroll at Hollins University to get her Masters in Psychology. She planned on pursuing a PhD, but a year of working in an early childhood special education program convinced her that her heart was more in the classroom than in research. She completed her teaching endorsements at Lynchburg College and was also cooking at Alexander’s Restaurant. Restaurant owner Bridget Meagher, and her husband, Hugh, a long time North Cross history teacher, suggested she apply for a teaching position at North Cross School.
That August, Ms. Cook was brought in as a first grade teacher in a large class that had three sections. She taught alongside Eileen Strulson and Teresa Miller. These two teachers had an established first grade program that had a lot to do with dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were incorporated in every subject, and the children loved it. Although Mrs. Miller left North Cross a few years later, Ms. Cook and Mrs. Strulson continued and expanded this program to what it is today. I think every student, even those that have already graduated, have fond memories of their first grade year at North Cross and can still recite the Dinosaur Poem and remember the moves to the Dinosaur Cha-Cha.
I asked Ms. Cook what it was like working with Mrs. Strulson and what made the first grade program at North Cross so special. She said, “Eileen became my mentor very early on. She is so knowledgeable about teaching in all aspects and made learning fun. She is also the most efficient person I have ever met; she never wasted a minute in the classroom.” Betsy went on to talk about the many years the two of them did the Dinosaur Program and said, “The special thing about children this age is their enthusiasm and sense of awe and wonder about the world. They are really excited by history and science and learning about the dinosaurs is really fascinating to them. They are always saying, ‘WOW, did that really happen?!’”
In addition to teaching about dinosaurs, Ms. Cook is passionate about her dogs and about teaching children to read. “Growing up, I was crazy about books. My mom took me to the public library every Thursday after school. I want to share that enthusiasm with my students. I want them to love reading and not think of it as chore,” said Ms. Cook.
Betsy has even managed to combine her love of dogs and reading. Her sweet yellow lab, Sophie, was a registered Delta Pet Partners therapy dog, an endorsement which allows dogs to visit hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. Betsy and Sophie participated in a program at the Glenvar Library where children would come and read to the dog. For children who struggle with reading, the dog represents a non-judgemental listener, and helps the children gain confidence and enthusiasm for reading. Although Ms. Cook’s new dog Pip is just a pup, she is already training to do similar work. She comes to school with Ms. Cook several times a week. Being around the children really helps Pip with her socialization, and the first graders love having her as their classmate.
Written by: Whitney Aldridge