News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, April 20, 2017
‘Education first’ motto sparks school board member involvement

A way to improve reading

Fred Briehl has become actively involved in finding ways to help the students at Penobscot Community School who are not at grade level in reading. Pictured, Briehl explains the functionality of the word list he found online.

Photo by Monique Labbe Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Monique Labbe

Fred Briehl has been an educator for most of his life. Now retired, the 88-year-old is still actively involved in education by way of the Penobscot School Board.

Briehl has been on the board for a year now, and while the board meets once a month, he said it is equally important to be involved in other ways.

“Education takes place in the school, not in the board room,” said Briehl. “My concern has always been education first, particularly when it comes to reading.”

It was that concern that led Briehl to reach out to the school about students who are not up to grade level in reading. He was informed that there were a couple students at the fourth grade level who could use some extra help, sparking him to research the best ways to do so.

“I’ve been out of the classroom a long time as a teacher, and I’m not the most computer literate person out there, but when I was teaching reading I would focus heavily on spelling words they should be reading. That way they understand when they see them on the page,” he said.

While researching on the Internet, Briehl said he came upon the perfect word list “by complete dumb luck.” The list features about 40 spelling lessons with 18-20 words each and has different lessons for grades 1-8.

“It’s exactly what you need, and it’s so simple,” he said. “You can even click on the word and it’ll tell you everything you need to know about that word. It gives you everything.”

Briehl added that by using the online word list, it allows students to get themselves up to reading level and still incorporate the technology that is used in the schools.

To find the list, simply type “free fourth grade online spelling word lists and interactive tests” into a search engine.

While the reading is Briehl’s focal point in his vision for helping out at the school, it is not the only thing he has been busy formulating. Briehl recently reached out to Penobscot resident and former Brooksville Elementary School principal Todd Nelson about helping the students interview older residents in town and creating a book, which would then be donated for free to the Penobscot Historical Society.

“I saw that [Nelson] had done something similar with the Brooksville students, and I thought it would be a great way for the students here to learn about what came before them,” he said. “Everybody seems to be on board.”

Briehl said that he is excited about being on the school board and about the things going on at the school.

“We have an excellent staff and some bright kids who have put in some high test scores lately. We need to continue that and keep climbing,” he said.