Erica Barbakow Returns Fall 2020

Due to coronavirus policies and guidelines, Ms. Barbakow and her girls are staying with Barbakow’s parents in their Florida condo until shelter-in-place orders are lifted. Photo: Ms. Barbakow

As new ninth graders and seasoned Pace underclassmen return next fall for the 2020-2021 school year, Erica Barbakow will resume her role as an upper school English teacher following a year-long hiatus. After her twin baby girls Charlie and Harper arrived May 10, 2019, Ms. Barbakow spent this past school year acquainting herself with both the responsibilities and rewards of motherhood. 

For the first six months after their birth, Ms. Barbakow and her girls lived in Atlanta and spent their days the way most maternity leaves begin: sleeping, eating and diaper changing on repeat. At the beginning of December, the new family moved to Naples, Florida to be near Ms. Barbakow’s parents and to escape the cold, dreary winters of North Georgia. “We’ve spent much of the last four months soaking up sunshine, taking lots of walks and spending time with family,” said Ms. Barbakow. “Some friends have visited.” 

Being a mother changes a woman’s life completely, from perceiving little things differently to adopting new sleep schedules to finding a deeper sense of self worth. Like most new mothers who hold their newborns for the first time, Ms. Barbakow learned what love truly was.

“This is the hardest and most rewarding job I’ve ever had,” said Ms. Barbakow. “I’ve learned to go with the flow in ways I wasn’t able to before. I’m a planner, but some things you can’t plan for, so I guess I’ve learned that as long as Charlie and Harper are OK, everything else is OK, too.” 

While the past year has been amazing for Ms. Barbakow and she is grateful to be able to spend the first 15 months of her girls’ lives with them on a daily basis, it’s time to get back to Pace so she can apply her newfound maternal knowledge to a different group of kids – her students.

During the upcoming school year, Ms. Barbakow will be teaching two AP Literature classes, one Honors American Literature class to juniors and one Honors British Literature class to sophomores. “I’ve taught all of these classes before, but it’s been a while since I taught 10th, so I’m really excited about that,” said Ms. Barbakow. 

Ms. Barbakow is most excited about being among “her people” again. “While I love my children more than anything, I miss having adult conversations and teaching English,” said Ms. Barbakow. “I miss meetings with my colleagues and problem solving. I miss being with my students, both in class and in my office having individual conversations. I miss sporting events and theatre productions.” 

Ms. Barbakow even joked that the first days of parenting life looked a lot like the 1993 comedy “Groundhog Day,” where a television weatherman finds himself reliving the same day over and over again. The aforementioned cycle of sleeping, eating and diaper changing can become a little monotonous. ”So, I’m excited about no day looking the same, as it never does at school,” said Ms. Barbakow. “There’s always some new challenge or prospect to get excited about.”

Her past students encourage her future students to be excited for her return, as well. “Ms. Barbakow was my favorite teacher because it was obvious that she cared about her students and what she was teaching,” said senior Maya Kaplan, who took Ms. Barbakow’s AP Literature course as a junior last school year along with seniors Tanner Walton and Everett O’Gorman. “Her class was always super engaging because of all the current events and anecdotes she mixed into our Harkness discussions,” said Walton.

“It’s good that Ms. Barbakow is coming back because she brings a lot of energy and excitement into the classroom, as well as friendliness into the hallways,” said O’Gorman. 

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