Piedmont Profile: Love, learning fill Barbara Corriher’s classroom
By Susan Shinn
CHINA GROVE ó Her young charges just having finished snacks, Barbara Corriher begins to read “Runaway Bunny.”
The children listen contentedly as the tenacious mother bunny morphs into various incarnations (a fisherman, a mountain climber, a tree, the wind) after her son tells her he’s going to run away.
“Whatever it takes, she’s gonna do it,” Barbara says.
The room is bright and cheerful, filled to the brim with toys, children’s art, Christmas cards from former students, a pet turtle, books and more.
Mostly, it’s filled with love and learning.
Welcome to preschool at Mount Zion United Church of Christ in China Grove.
There’s been a preschool here for the better part of 40 years, and Barbara was responsible for getting it started back up when she arrived here 15 years ago.
It’s one of several sought-after preschools in the county. It serves 38 children: 4-year-olds every morning of the week, 2-year-olds on Monday and Friday and 3-year-olds Tuesday-Thursday.
Barbara teaches the 4-year-olds, while Phyllis Taggart teaches the other two classes. They’re assisted by Cathy Hannah.
In the 4-year-old class, Barbara explains, “We’re trying to get them ready for kindergarten.”
In all grades, there’s socialization and teaching children problem-solving skills using their manners and using their words.
Both teachers give Barbara an A-plus.
“As soon as I met her, I fell in love with her,” Phyllis says. “She’s a good person, she’s active in the community and she’s wonderful with the kids. I just instantly liked her.”
“You can tell by watching her, she’s good with the kids,” Cathy says. “She has a lot of experience.”
Barbara, 51, is in her 28th year of teaching, having gone to work at St. John’s Kindergarten as soon as she graduated from Appalachian State University.
Her family returned to Salisbury when Barbara was in second grade. Both parents were graduates of Boyden High School.
Barbara graduated from East Rowan and received her education degree from ASU.
St. John’s was her home congregation, and Pat Epting hired her to teach at the kindergarten.
“I loved it from the first day,” Barbara says, “it’s just a fun age.”
Barbara met her husband, Darryl, out dancing one night.
She’d “seen him around” so when they finally officially met, she liked him right off.
They’ve been married for 21 years and have two children, Claire, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina, and Addison, a senior at South Rowan High School who will enter Duke University this fall ó like his daddy.
Barbara admits to having a “mixed marriage” and certainly has mixed allegiances when it comes to schools.
But, she says diplomatically, “I pull for all schools where kids learn.”
nnnBarbara says her teaching staff is the best ever.
She calls Phyllis, the mother of five, “a hard worker who’s always smiling.”
As for Cathy, “I just had good memories of her from high school,” Barbara says. “She was so friendly and smiling all the time. We all just laugh a lot.”
From 8:30 to noon, they have a jam-packed day.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of preparation goes into each and every day,” Barbara says. “A lot of time goes into it to make it successful. It won’t be successful otherwise.”
Barbara praises the preschool parents for their support.
Anything the staff needs, Barbara says, the parents make sure they get it.
Chandra Whicker, a church member and parent of two former students, chairs the church’s preschool committee.
“She’s just so wonderful to work with,” Chandra says of Barbara. “She’s an awesome teacher and she has all these great ideas. She has a special gift from God to work with these young children.”
About the only problem they have, Chandra says, is when children don’t get into the preschool. Siblings and church members have priority.
“She’s known as the best,” Chandra says of Barbara.
Just one other thing.
You’d never know it now, but Barbara Corriher had a mild stroke in the fall.
Her sister called the night of Sept. 4.
She tried to take the phone from her husband.
“The next thing I knew, there was ringing in my ears and I was losing control,” Barbara says. “I felt nauseated. I remember thinking, this might be a stroke.
“I really couldn’t let myself believe it. But it was.”
Doctors eventually determined there was a problem with a vein in her lung, which caused a blood clot to travel unhindered to her brain, instead of being filtered through the artery.
She underwent a procedure for the problem and spent 11 days in the hospital. She remained at home another week before returning to work.
“It made me even more thrilled to be with the kids,” she says. “I have recuperated very well.”
None of the substitutes parents lined up would accept any pay.
“It was really kind,” Barbara says. “We got back in the swing real quickly.”
Back to “Runaway Bunny.”
Finally, the bunny gives up on his plan to leave.
“Shucks, I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.”
At the end of the book, the mother bunny and her son are snuggling in their underground burrow.
“We’ve talked about how bunnies like to live underground,” Barbara says.
Now it’s time for show and tell.
This morning it’s McGuire Caudill’s turn.
He brings up a firetruck his grandmomma gave him the day before.
“The first day back after Easter, we are going to the fire department to see the real firetruck,” Barbara tells the children.
Field trips are a big deal in preschool. Also upcoming is an Easter egg hunt (postponed because of rainy weather earlier) as well as an annual trip to Patterson Farm.
As McGuire describes his toy, Barbara notes that firefighters can be male or female.
Next it’s Olivia Vinson’s turn. She shows off her stuffed puppy, Muffin Grace ó who’s evidently been here a few times before.
“When I get lonely, I play with my puppy,” Olivia says.
Alli Coody’s mom sent in a bag of Easter cookies, and Logan Mahaley got an extra one, because someone was trying to eat his cookie during Alli’s birthday party, Barbara explains.
Barbara passes out puzzles for the children to work on until their rides come and gives each child a cookie when he or she leaves.
“I’m still not as good as I should be at puzzles,” Barbara says, straightening the tables and chairs and putting the toys away after the children leave.
Meet Barbara Corriher
Favorite book: ěLittle Womenî
Favorite movie: ěThe Sound of Musicî
Favorite food: Spaghetti
Pet peeve: Littering. ěItís the ultimate in laziness.î
Most embarrassing moment: ěToo many to name.î Probably when she dropped a birthday cake at St. Johnís, or fell when she was walking backward in front of her preschoolers at the fair.
Proudest moment: When both her children were accepted to the colleges of their choice.
Laughed the most when: ěWhenever I am with my close friends from college.î
Would like to be remembered as: ěA wife, a mother, a daughter, a teacher, a friend.î