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DEC.7,2022— Pal-Mac Intermediate School fifth-grade teachers Bailiegh Moquin and Owen Wahl are known as the “Dream Team.” It’s a lofty title, but it’s well-understood just by looking at their work in the classroom.
It’s a sunny day in September, the school year started a couple of weeks ago. Moquin and Wahl are leading a class discussion based on a reading, with all the students sitting cross-legged on the carpet. Wahl’s at the whiteboard, and Moquin’s standing nearby as the teacher tandem takes and asks questions about the first few weeks of school.
Welcomed by a barrage of raised hands and even more eager voices, Moquin and Wahl calmly worked together to take down notes on the board. Each teacher took turns.
This type of productive back and forth is not a blip on the radar, far from it, this is true to their style.
The two are demonstrating a technique called "team teaching," it's where both teachers take an equal role in standing in front of the students.
“I don’t think we step on each other’s toes at all,” Wahl said.”I think there is a certain amount of understanding where she’s going to jump in when I’m talking, It's fine, that’s our norm. If she’s got something to add or if I have something to add we just go with it.”
With chemistry like that, you would think these two have been working together for years, but really it’s only been these first few weeks.
See, Wahl previously taught fourth grade, while Moquin taught fifth, albeit in a different class. So how do they work so well together? It's an answer almost two decades in the making.
THE MOST INVOLVED
Before the two were teaching in the same classroom, they were classmates. While there is some guess as to when they exactly met, Moquin, says she has videos of her and Wahl back in pre-school.
Wahl recalled days spent on the playground as one of his earliest memories with Moquin. Along the way, the two became part of a friend group called “The Four Musketeers.”
“We spent like every weekend together,” Moquin said. “We were doing god knows what, but it was a lot of fun.”
When they weren’t hanging out on the weekends, the two were participating in a number of student organizations and sports teams. Wahl played for the boys' lacrosse and soccer teams, while Moquin’s fancy was running, as she competed on the track and cross country teams.
Additionally, Moquin took the lead on the student council, with Wahl joining her in Middle School.
For their efforts, the two were named "Most Involved" as seniors in 2017. Their yearbook picture is posted on a display board in their room.
“I think people saw us as people who were doing three-sport athletes, clubs, we were just looked at as leaders in the building,” Moquin said.
Leadership runs deep for both the Moquin and Wahl families, as Bailiegh is the daughter of current Dean of Students at the Middle School, Colleen Moquin. Owen is the son of current Pal-Mac High School principal, Andy Wahl.
"You grow up in a classroom, you want to go back to a classroom," Wahl said.
The two say their family backgrounds and their dedication to getting involved played a significant role in choosing to pursue a teaching career.
After graduation, Moquin attended SUNY Geneseo while Wahl studied at St.John Fisher University. During this time, the two said they tried to keep in touch, though this was a period they did not see each other as much as they had before.
Despite the distance, the two remained focused on their shared goal of teaching someday. But the possibility of them teaming up seemed less and less likely.
Wahl said he took up a "Pal-Mac or bust" mentality post-graduation, while Moquin was exploring some other opportunities.
"I don't know if it was ever a thought that we would be in the same classroom together," Moquin said. "But it ended up working out."
'BATMAN TO ROBIN'
Out of college, Wahl's persistence paid off as he took a teaching job at Pal-Mac. Moquin was not too far away, as she accepted a job down the road in the Newark Central School District.
Not too long after, though, the two sensed a change was coming. According to Wahl, there were rumblings of some open positions at either the fourth or fifth-grade level.
It was 2022, and the idea of teaching together became more and more of a reality. Wahl said he and Moquin talked about the opportunity to work together and the "coolness" of it all.
"I told her I would be the Robin to her Batman," Wahl said. "And when it did happen, I said get your utility belt, this is going to happen."
Moquin said she received the Batman message from Wahl shortly after Principal Jenn Check offered up the position.
"I left that day cheering up and down because I was so excited for the year," Moquin said.
The excitement carried over the summer, as the two took part in a co-teaching seminar. Moquin said the seminar validated what they already knew, the two make a great teaching team.
"I do think we're able to team teach all the time," Moquin said. "Our students get more out of us just because we do know each other so well."
While they've been able to master working with each other, there were still some things they had to get used to. Mainly, they had to now work with some of the same teachers they had when they were students.
Moquin said it felt "funky" calling teachers by their first names after spending years addressing them by their surnames. This includes Mrs. Pam Wertz, a teacher Moquin said had a major impact on her and Wahl as students.
"It's so comforting and welcoming now that we're seen as collaborators instead of previous students," Moquin said.
'IT'S ALL ABOUT THE COMMUNITY
Remember Wahl's "Pal-Mac or bust" mentality? Turns out his passion for his community is what partially motivated him to have it.
He says he felt a "really big want" to give back to Pal-Mac because of what he gained from learning here as a student.
"These are kids that we've seen before," Wahl said. "They're the peers that we had sitting next to us, they're going through things that we know about."
Moquin and Wahl make it a point to include pieces from their time as students in their classroom environment.
Not only do they display their "Most Involved" picture, but they also have the exact crown Wahl wore as Prom King hanging on the wall. In fact, when we first stopped by the classroom, Wahl had a student use the crown as a stencil for drawing on the whiteboard.
Both he and Moquin say bringing these personal items into class helps them closely connect with their students.
"Even though it's a small community, we're a bunch of different people coming from a variety of different backgrounds," Moquin said. "I see that in my students, I know that I have experienced that."
The two say while they don't push a future in teaching on their students, they've already seen some potential leaders on the horizon.
'THE DREAM TEAM?'
So now you know the story of how this "Dream Team" of lifelong friends became teachers in the same classroom. But, when asked if they really thought they fit their flattering nickname, Moquin and Wahl offered this:
"I hope so," Moquin said. "I really hope we're able to follow through on that,"
"Fingers crossed," Wahl said. "Assume nothing, hope for everything."
As their back and forth continued, the two began laughing out loud as they added "we stay humble."
Dream Team, Batman and Robin, Moquin and Wahl: Whatever you call this duo, it's clear they have a passion for togetherness, one that extends beyond any classroom.