Betty Jane Berich received her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary and special education from
California University of Pennsylvania in 1968.
Her teaching career began the fall of 1968 in the West Mifflin School District where she taught for five
years, three in kindergarten and two in first grade. During her first year of kindergarten, she had 39
students in the morning and 38 in the afternoon. All other educational challenges which she encountered
in her teaching career paled to this first assignment.
Berich took time off from 1973 to 1978 to raise her two sons, Tom and Ryan. She was honored to
be asked in 1978 by Donna Shultz to fill in as a long-term substitute kindergarten teacher at Yough
Elementary in the Elizabeth Forward School District. She turned down a first grade position in EF the
following year to begin an 11-year stint as a preschool teacher at Central Highlands United Methodist
Preschool, apposition she dearly loved. It afforded her the opportunity to teach her son, Ryan, as well as
her niece Allison Carney Allegre. She taught the four-year olds there with Jane Luckey, who was the
director. Luckey asked her if she would consider teaching three-year olds, something the community
seemed to want. Berich wrote and designed the program for threes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it
continues today under the direction of her sister, Donna Carney.
After 11 fun filled and rewarding years as a preschool teacher known to her students as .Miss B.J.., her
husband strongly encouraged her to get back into the school district in order to make some .real money.
so they could begin to prepare for their sons. college educations. Thus, she left preschool with much
sadness and became a day-to-day substitute in EFSD.
A year later, Berich was called to fill in as a long-term substitute for three different kindergarten classes.
She thoroughly enjoyed her work at Greenock, Mt. Vernon and Central where she was able to have her
other niece, Bethany Carney, as a student. Each day spent in kindergarten fed her passion for teaching
five years olds to read.
Just as she and her husband, Tom, were preparing to go away in late August because there were no
prospects for a job or contract, a call came for her to be interviewed. The interview took place and the
job of Instructional Support Team (I.S.T.) was offered. It offered a contact. While it was at all what she
wanted, Berich accepted and decided to .buck up. and give it a try, not even knowing what it entailed.
Doug Watson already had a position as Instructional Support Team teacher; therefore, she was able to
learn from him as they worked together for seven years as partners and enjoyed growing and changing
the program together. Out of this collaboration came a summer school program which parents had been
requesting - math and reading classes for remediation of grades one to three. This program served the
district well until funding could no longer support it. The summer program and I.S.T. were disbanded.
During the last four years of her involvement with I.S.T. and her next venture teaching kindergarten
at Elizabeth Elementary, she instituted .Parent Workshops. every other month. These programs were
attended by young parents looking to get ideas as to how to work better with their children at home.
Berich is very proud of the success of these classes and the subsequent programs which grew from these
workshops; such as the preschool teachers of the community and the kindergarten teachers of the school
district coming together to share ideas and understand better what each group expected from the other.
Another program that caught on in the district was something Berich always did each when she was a
classroom teacher; and that was to invite all the parents into her classroom one evening during the first
week of school. She wanted to establish a rapport with each family and let them know who their child
would be spending their entire day with for the next nine months. This was always received so well
by parents thanking her for the opportunity to know their child.s teacher and entertaining any and all
questions. The consensus was that this elevated their comfort level of letting their child go to all day
kindergarten. Once central administration became aware of this special kindergarten evening, it was
instituted district wide.
When Berich moved into the kindergarten position at Elizabeth, she knew she had very big shoes to fill
(Mary Havel had this position for 28 years). She was somewhat apprehensive. There was no time to
dwell on it because shortly after she accepted this position, she received a call that the district was going
to make this classroom into an extended day kindergarten, an idea new to EF. It eventually was morphed
into all-day kindergarten district wide several years later.
The former Betty Jane Howell has been married to Tom Berich for 43 years. Tom taught at Pleasant Hills
Middle School for 37 years and coached basketball in several local school districts, including EF. Today,
he works for All Pittsburgh Real Estate. Together, they enjoy doo-wop dancing, spending time with
family and friends and for special dates, they got to dinner and Heinz Hall performances.
Her two sons are the delights of her life. Tom is married to Lara and a performing musician living in
Bloomington, IN. Ryan had been substitute teaching and coaching basketball in area schools.
The most recent endeavor Berich has a passion for is Baby Love Layettes, an idea that landed in her lap
unexpectedly but has become very fulfilling. Along with her friends and church members, they provide
clothing and other layette items to needy, new babies born at UPMC.s Magee Women.s Hospital. She
found out that some babies are wrapped in a hospital sheet to go home because there was nothing else.
This is no longer the case as Baby Love Layettes provides each baby has a new outfit, blanket, socks, etc.
She provides special bags and layette items once a month to the hospital.
Delta Kappa Gamma, Bethesda Church Choir, Session member, liturgist and visiting her parents at Arden
Court are what keeps her very busy and happy in retirement.