Tuesday, July 26, 2016

50 Years of Impact -- Ladies full of laughter

Role Models…

As I think about role models in my life, I realize they have come in all ages, shapes and sizes in my life.  But one consistent theme among the woman role models in my life is their laughter.

When I became employed for Benton Community I worked in the Keystone and Van Horne Elementary buildings.  The two secretaries in those buildings were Darlene DeVries and Marilyn Schlotterbeck.  Even though I worked part-time and was only in their buildings a short amount of time during the week, both of them left a lasting impression on me of the importance of laughter in schools.  No matter what, I could count on both of these ladies to help me find my smile on any given day. 

I spent a little bit more time in Keystone Elementary during my weeks and Marilyn and I became kindred spirits.  We would spend many days after school sharing our life stories and helping each other remember life is full of challenges – but how you respond to those challenges really defines who we become.   Each year, when school pictures were taken, I would give one of my pictures to Marilyn and she’d keep it on her desk.  I hope when she looked at it, she was reminded to smile and laugh everyday a little more.  Marilyn worked for Tim Sanderson and when Mr. Junge transitioned into the building, Marilyn stayed and helped Ryan learn the ropes of working in the elementary setting.   Marilyn has always a person I could count on to make me smile and laugh.  Marilyn worked for the District for a total of 30 years.   I value her and our friendship.

Marilyn and her beautiful smile!

When I moved to the MS/HS as a school counselor, the three building secretaries there continued that sound -- laughter.  Peggy Nelson, Shari Stepanek and Deanne Becker were, and are still, full of laughter.  Recently, I took them to lunch and I laughed so much that my mascara was running down my face.  We even got asked to leave the restaurant because they needed to close after their noon meal!

These three ladies were mothers to twelve children and I soaked up all the parenting knowledge I could gain from them – whether they knew I was listening or not.  Each of them supported and listened to the others as they shared celebrations and concerns about being a mom of “teenagers”.  Our oldest daughter, Katie, was in 8th grade, so I knew their stories may be my stories someday – so I better learn what worked!   All of our children are now adults and doing very well thanks to the parenting lessons shared with each other!

They also loved to be part of practical jokes that happened at the MS/HS.  Some of them included:
  • Cans of cat food opened in drawers of desks
  • Unplugging phone cords so when it rang the other person could not hear or talk
  • Greasing phones
  • Calling in sick on April Fool’s Day and Doug Embray being all of them at once, until he looked at the security camera and saw them all smiling up at him
  • Dressing up for Halloween/Homecoming or any other event that was cause for such an outfit
  • Dead squirrels on desks
  • Air hoses ran into offices and turned on to cause a ruckus
  • Putting pictures on the backside of office doors
  • Secretary Day meal and bill that resulted in one administrator saying “We can’t fire them all!”

If they weren’t participating in the practical joke – they were trying desperately to keep their poker faces on.  They knew that all the staff got along in and outside the classrooms and they were a huge part of that culture and wanted to keep it going.  The one thing they did better than any other three women I’ve ever worked with is support and helped one another.  Or as they said “Laughter was abound, but we stuck up for one another!”

Deanne graduated from BC in 1969 and began working for the school in 1989.  Shari started working for the school in 1990 and Peggy followed in 1993.  Their combined years of commitment to the District and their friendship inspires me today to make sure I am working on keeping relationships and laughter a mainstay at Benton. 
Andy & Deanne Becker and their grandkids
Each of the ladies I’ve written about in this blog post has helped form who I am as a mom, wife and BC employee.   Their influence on me has helped me remember to be someone who loves to have fun and help others smile and laugh each day at work!

Monday, July 11, 2016

50 Years of Benton --- Norem Impact

I’ve never been a science or math head.  I took the minimal amount of math and science in high school to get into UNI back in the early 80’s.  What I am though is someone who has benefited from people who tried to teach me math and science.  One of those people is Dick Norem.  Dick is my former High School Chemistry Teacher and Basketball/Softball Coach.  

When I met with him recently at a local Panera Bakery, I learned so much about him and his family that I didn’t know.  It really made me come away with a renewed sense of there is so much more to an educator than one can learn from being a student in their classroom or athlete on one of their teams.

In his life, he says he has “few regrets and that God has truly blessed us.”  Dick and Patsy were looking for employment after graduating from UNI.  Along with employment, they were also looking for a desk and saw an advertisement for a desk being sold.  When they went to look at it they found themselves at the Associate Pastor’s house from their church in Cedar Falls. The Pastor asked if them if they had ever considered going overseas as a missionary teacher. To make a long story short, they ended up skipping the graduation ceremonies to start packing all their belongings into two 50 gallon barrels to go to Ethiopia.  Dick shared that this was an incredible experience to gain perspective on life.  

Dick and Patsy have continued service trips over the years including going to Mexico 6 times to build houses with the high school youth group from their church. These trips always serve to give kids a better perspective on their own lives as well as the lives of people around them. 

After being in Ethiopia for two years, Patsy got typhoid and they came back home and started their life in Dunkerton.  Dick was looking for a coaching position so he was being particular about where he went and Dunkerton fit the bill the best.  Principal Ed Schank turned out to be a great principal for him to work with in his first years of teaching in the states.  Dick remembers him being behind the teachers 100% and a sports guy.  Dick coached girls track, softball, and was assistant girls BB for 2 years and then head girls BB coach for 3 years for a total of 5 years in Dunkerton. 

When I asked him about what brought him to Benton, he responded, “God” (He is and always has been in control).   He was finishing up his MNS at the University of Idaho through a National Science Foundation Grant.  The US Government at that time paid tuition, books and a small stipend to complete the four summer program.  When offered the opportunity to come and teach and coach at BC he readily accepted the job offer with great anticipation. The coaching position was open due to the resigning of Larry Wiebke so he could assume the position of Activities Director.  Dick said that he inherited a group of very talented girls and a great program. 

That spring Dick was off to Idaho to finish the last summer of his masters program. He and Patsy had 2 little girls at the time, and Patsy was left with the task of selling their house in Dunkerton and buying their house in Van Horne  while taking care of their two small girls.  They paid $10,000 for a mustard colored house inside and out.  Eventually they bought the house north of them and tore it down for a nice yard.  They lived in that house the entire time Dick was teaching at Benton Community – plus two years- 33 years!  

As a student of Mr. Norem’s, I remember he and Mr. Bell as being very close.  They walked or worked out every morning at 6:30 and solved the educational problems that had surfaced the day before.  In many ways Marv and he are as close as brothers.  He told me that he and Mr. Bell experienced very few discipline problems because  the students were usually motivated to learn in their classes.  He and Marv taught many of the same students and they enjoyed sharing their classroom experiences.  He thinks that Benton Community has rock solid core values with the families they serve, as well as the staff.  I also remember that Mr. Norem and his wife sang at many events.  They have beautiful voices.
Patsy & Dick Norem

Here are a few other parts to the Norem story I didn’t know:

    • Dick and Patsy have continued service trips over the years including going to Mexico 6 times to build houses with the high school youth group from their church. These trips always serve to give kids a better perspective on their own lives as well as the lives of people around them.   
    • Dick taught science for 47 years full time and he is still subbing today.  He loves the high school age student and he shares, “they keep him young”
    • Dick and his wife, Patsy, met at Waldorf College.  He graduated from UNI after attending 2 years at Waldorf.  He recently attended his 50th class reunion at Waldorf with 50 other classmates. 
    • Dick coached three sports at at BC:  Girls BB, Assistant Softball and Boy’s golf.  He and Patsy were also sponsors of FCA.  He says, “Kids haven’t changed.  They want structure.”  
    • He left BC because he got a call from Steve Russell (who he went to church with) and he asked if Dick wanted to teach at Cedar Valley Christian.  “During those 9 years it was the greatest place to be.”  He wasn’t looking to leave Benton Community at the time.  “All my life I knew that God was in control.”  “Benton Community was a great place for me all those years and I wouldn’t trade those years either.” 
    • Jay Lieb and Dick take a fishing trip every summer and have been doing that for over 20 years.
    • Dick taught with Steve McGrew for many years.  They both like to experiment with chemistry.  One of their chemistry experiments was a pressure thing that caused a loud reaction, which they planted in the classroom and in the hallway.  He still has the book with the recipe for that “experiment”.
    • Dick’s Chimney sweep is a former student who lived in the house they tore down to gain more of a yard.  This student now owns his own successful business.
    • Dick spent time with one of our former superintendent’s family when their daughter died recently in a tragic car accident.
    • Dick has a brother that was a school counselor, teacher and coach at the high school level. He went on to become a teacher of counselors at the University level.  He is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at UNI this October.
    Mr. Norem being honored for his service to others

Dick ended our conversation with saying, “I love running into former students no matter where I am.  I always remember the face, not always the name.  Patsy does though.”   People in your life can fade from your memory when you aren’t in contact with them on a consistent basis.  Dick made me feel like there had been no time passed since the last time I spoke with him.  His passion for people and serving others is an inspiration to me.  I may not have been a math or science head, but what I hope he did transfer to me is his faith and ability to share that gift with others.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

50 Years of Impact - Lieb Impact

Jay & Cheryl Lieb

After being a student at Atkins Consolidated School District from the time he started kindergarten, Jay Lieb needed to make a choice.   During the spring of his junior year, Jay Lieb was told he’d need to choose a new school to attend for his senior year.  Atkins School was being closed.   His choices were any school district that bordered Atkins Consolidated School District.  Newhall, Cedar Rapids, Shellsburg and Norway were his choices.  He chose Norway where he attended his senior year, playing basketball and baseball and graduated from in May of 1964.

After high school he attended Luther College and earned a B.A. in history.  He traveled Europe with their choir for the “Norse”.  When he finished his degree, he became a Youth Director at the Ellis YMCA and was then transferred to Salina, Kansas YMCA to become the Youth Director.

At the age of 24, the Camp Director called Jay into his office and told him he was going to be the new director.  Jay told them, “I’m too young!”  Their response was he either takes the job offer or look for something else.  He chose something else and that is where his teaching story begins.   As he reflects on those three years of being a Youth Director they were some of the best training for teaching students. 

After deciding to do “something else”, Jay re-enrolled in college at Kansas Wesleyan to earn a teaching degree.   This is also where he met his future wife, Cheryl.  Jay was playing semi pro basketball while attending school and he and his roommate were double-dating with Cheryl and her roommate.  Well as life sometimes happens – they ended up together and the rest is history.  They had their first non-date with each other’s roommates in January and by April, Cheryl had a ring on her hand and they were married in June.  They’ve been married for 44 years. 

Cheryl told me Jay taught her in their first month of marriage to “talk” and since then, they have never had argument or what Cheryl perceives to be knock-down fights.  Jay remembers Cheryl’s birthday by knowing it is 8 days after their first dog’s birthday.  They are pure joy to interact with and an inspiration to me role models of a married couple.

After Jay finished college, his dad had been talking to Phil England about the path Jay had taken after high school.  Jay’s dad was a salesperson for Metropolitan School Supply Company, and visited schools often.   So, Mr. England called Jay and asked him, “Would like to teach in Atkins?  And, if I send you a contract would you sign it?”  Jay told him, “Yes and yes!”  Cheryl and Jay were living in Augusta, Kansas and also had an offer from Norway to teach for them.  The reason he chose Atkins was his Dad had a house in Atkins they could rent.  So, Atkins Elementary had a new teacher for 4th grade in August of 1973.  He retired from full-time teaching in 2004 and subbed from 2004 – 2015. 

This picture is from Jay’s first year of teaching.  He carry’s it in his wallet and shared it with me.

Cheryl also worked for the school district.  Cheryl was secretary to Harold Merchant when he was the Transportation Director.  She worked at Central Office with Diane Hanken & Lou Haack who did the book keeping, and also with Gloria Feuerbach.  Cheryl and Gloria were in the front of Central Office where they met and made many connections within the community.  Gloria is the mother of Shannon Feuerbach, one of our current school board members.  

After Jay and Cheryl had their son Josh, she stayed home with him for a few years before returning to employment outside the home.  She had many experiences in those years and finished her work career back at Benton Community Schools.  I thank goodness the day she agreed to hold one of the toughest jobs we had in the Middle School at the time – study hall monitor.    She told me she still misses the kids and loves to see them when she is out and about.  

Cheryl is the 3rd person from the right in the 2nd row. 

Cheryl and Jay are known as being great cooks and sharing their dishes.  Cheryl says she started making daily treats for Jay’s classrooms due to many students coming to school without breakfast.  This sharing continued until the last day they left the MS/HS.  Mr. Lieb and Mr. Kohnert cooked every day in “Kohnert’s Kitchen” and shared their food with students and staff.  Jay says the “Kohnert’s Kitchen” tradition started as a result of becoming “conflict manager” with a few students who were not getting along.  Jay told me, “We found out it’s hard to be mad at someone who you are sharing a meal with!”

Jay & Cheryl cooking at MS Outdoor Ed Day

As Jay and Cheryl sat in my office looking at an old elementary yearbook, they reminisced about many students and staff.  Here are just a few of the stories they shared:
  • Jay sang in a quartet with Harold Merchant, Pat Ingram and Gordy Wade.
  • Harold Merchant loaned Jay and Cheryl the money to buy their house in Blairstown.
  • Jay shot a skunk at the playground in Atkins and our Benton County Sherriff, Ken Popenhagen asked him to do it.
  • Jay and Pat Ingram hosted students at Hannen Lake for an outdoor camping experience from 1974 until 1976.
1973-74 Yearbooks

Jay and Sherri Etscheidt in the 1973-74 Yearbook
Sherrie was also a classmate of mine.
  • Phil England even stayed up all night keeping the fire going to scare away a coyote away that Pat Ingram and Jay told him was close.  This sounds similar to “Great White Bear” story that Mr. Pfiffner tells about at Wapsi Y.  (Mr. Lieb – you taught him wellJ
  •  Benton Community saw what great experience students had with the Hannen Lake experience they wanted to ensure that all students were able to attend, so Tim Sanderson started the tradition of sending students to Camp Wapsi in 1976.  My 6th grade class was the first to attend.
  • Jay hosted Boundary Waters trips for 40+ years and has people asking still today for alumni trips. There are so many Boundary Water Stories – I can’t print them all here – but some topics of conversations centered around the tornado, digging a toilet, Linda Pietz cooking gear and enjoying DQ each year when the bus got back to civilization   
  • Jay and Cheryl remember fondly Terry Norton and Dale Vogt being willing to “give anything as long as it was for the kids!”
  • Cheryl typed papers for people who were working on advanced degrees.  This was before computers and if there was a change in what the author wanted, that meant the whole paper needed to be re-typed.  B less her heart!
  • Jay taught 6th grade one year with:  Gary Zittergruen, Doug Embray and Cindy Miller.  He says he “May of taught them the ropes!”
  •  Jay coached the following activities:
    • Varsity Softball
    • 9th Girls BB
    • 7th VB
    • 7th & 8th Girls BB
    •  7th boys track
  • Jay and Cheryl hosted students on the farm for many outings.
    • Students used their farmhouse like going to a camp and had many slumber parties with bonfires and “shipwrecks”.  Shipwrecks are a Lieb specialty made of eggs, meat, veggies with in a tortilla shell made over the grill.
    • Shawn Pfiffner swung on their swing, learned how to trap shoot, helped with cattle and learned how to make shipwrecks from Cheryl and Jay.  Shawn carries on this tradition at Wapsi to this day.
    • They also told a story of two of my former classmates, Laura Wagner and Mindy Benion and a plate of spaghetti found under their couch. 

I contacted Shawn Pfiffner to share a few of his thoughts on the Lieb’s.  Here is what he had to say:

The Liebs have hearts of gold. There is nothing they wouldn't do for anyone. I have so many great memories of them.  Mr. Lieb was one of my favorite teachers. He treated everyone with respect. He was so big. ..but had a heart of gold.  We worked hard in his classroom... but I really remember recesses with Mr. Lieb. He would come outside almost every recess, whether he had duty or not and throw touchdown passes or play kickball with us.

Dennis Wiiliamson, Steve Heisdorffer, and I use to stick around after school and sing Statler Brothers songs with Mr. Lieb. We all had our parts...Mr. Lieb obviously sang the bass parts;)
When I was in sixth grade,  Mr. Lieb use to cook us donuts on Fridays. I loved getting to school early on Fridays to help him...and get an early donut. I learned to cook shipwrecks from the Liebs. Cooking shipwrecks has turned into tradition in our house on the weekends to this day. My kids and their friends love them.

I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Lieb in the middle school.  He was the science teacher and I taught special education. He was a great mentor to me.  He was someone I went to about everything. Mr. Lieb retired...but came back the next year to be an associate in my classroom. All the students in my class had life skills and behavior goals. Mr. Lieb was so good with these kids. He was also put in charge of life skills cooking on Fridays. He needs to write a cook book on roaster cooking. 

I could go on and on.  Let me know if your need anything more from me Jo. Again, they don't get any better than the Liebs!!


When I think of Benton Community and 50 years of impact – Jay and Cheryl are two of the people who come to mind.  They are two of the most giving people I know and I have been blessed to be able to work with both of them.   They represent part of what I want to be when I grow upJ

P.S.  They also just got back from a trip to Hawaii and Jay and Cheryl told me I really need to talk Todd into taking this trip sometime soonJ  I think it’s a given.  How can Todd argue with these two marvelous people?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

50 Years of Benton Community -- Miss RoseMary Meyer Impact

“Absolutely a hoot!”  

That’s how Miss RoseMary Meyer described her time as an employee at Newhall High School and later Benton Community High School. 

Miss Meyer began her teaching career in the fall of 1955 and taught business courses for a total of thirty-nine years.  Her largest senior class was 141 and smallest was 99.  For those of us who had the pleasure of being taught by Miss Meyer, that’s a whole ‘lotta “homerow people”.  I am one of many great typist she helped develop due to her dedication and tenacity for helping students learn “correctly”. 

1975 Yearbook photo

Miss Meyer grew up in Clarence, Iowa, and when she graduated from Coe in the spring of 1955.  She interviewed for two different jobs; Grundy Center and Newhall.   Both were farming communities and Miss Meyer chose to work in Newhall because “everything seemed very comfortable and like home.” 

Miss Meyer had the chance in 1958 to study in California with her former advising professor from Coe.   She did this for her first two summers of teaching.  In 1959 her advising professor wanted her to interview in Palo Alto, CA.   She went and interviewed and told me, “I just didn’t feel comfortable with the place.  The next summer my dad passed away and if I had taken that job, I would have missed that year with my dad and helping my mom with everything.   The years just crept along and I had many friends here and it just worked out.”   
Miss Meyer did spend a few summers in Colorado earning her M.A. in business education.  She commented, “Those summers in Colorado and California were so much fun.  I got to learn from a work study program in the insurance industry.  The work study program was designed for me to find out the types of skills a high school graduate needed for those types of jobs.” 

This summer Miss Meyer will attend a 60th class reunion for the Newhall School.  In a recent phone conversation, Miss Meyer shared she loves these events.  She thoroughly enjoys being able to see how students turned out after high school. 
Miss Meyer commented, “The thing that is really neat is to see the late bloomers.  It’s great to see someone come back who you thought years earlier ‘how will they ever survive?’ and they’ve now found their nitch and they turn out so super.  That’s absolutely a hoot!  For so many of students, I only saw them for three years when we were in the Van Horne High School.   And then there were so many after that when we moved into the MS/HS building.  I was fortunate that I had contact with all of them their senior year.  I was senior sponsor and helped with graduation for 28 years.”

Miss Meyer shared with me, “Graduation was held on Thursday evening when we started at Benton Community – just like Newhall.  School Baccalaureate was on Sunday and the following Thursday graduation would happen.  Local ministers were on a rotation by denomination and town, in alphabetical order, to lead Baccalaureate.  There was no band at Baccalaureate, only an organ.  Reuben “Denny” Denbo would go to Atkins and pick-up Deanne Krug Becker’s organ.   Evelyn Wiebke and Linda Podahasky played the organ for Baccalaureate.

Baccalaureate, during those times was a board approved event and when classes would tell Miss Meyer they did not want to hold Baccalaureate, she would share with them,  “We will have it unless you can go to board and present why not to have it.  This is board policy.”  One year the class got themselves organized, went to ministers and the board and Baccalaureate was no more.   Miss Meyer shared, “Then we moved graduation to Sunday, which caused quite uproar!  But that is what ended up happening.” 

Two Benton Community graduations were held outside and Miss Meyer would like to know which years these were.   Miss Meyer commented there was a lot of stress with having graduations outside.  Miss Meyer remembers it was so cold and had been raining that first year graduation was held outside.  She told me, "Almost everyone wore overcoats and chairs sunk in to the football field.  The next year graduation was a beautiful and calm night and the band people didn’t even need to use clothespins on their music.  The following year graduation was planned for outside, but it got moved inside due to pouring down rain."  Miss Meyer told me this was not a problem due to students already having Baccalaureate inside on the Sunday before.  The following year, on the morning of graduation, it was raining again and Mr. Merchant called Miss Meyer and told her, “We are having graduation at Newhall today and from now on.”  

After that the only time graduation was moved to Keystone was when a storm came through and ripped off part of the roof at Newhall.  This was also the same year that the robes for graduation didn’t arrive until the Friday before graduation.  Miss Meyer was really concerned and as she put it, "I was in a bit of a tizzy", but was assured when the robes arrived other people would help fix this dilemma. 
1981 Yearbook photo

When I asked Miss Meyer if she had a time in her teaching career that really sticks out, she commented, “There are many of them.  One time was when we had two new seniors move to BC (a brother and sister).  I was sharing with them the process for graduation and another senior said to them, ‘Do what she says, you can trust her!’  That meant a lot to me.”  She also commented, “I remember a graduation picture with someone and Jim took a picture of us and put it in the paper.  Things like that were the most fun.  It was just a hoot!”  

Myself and Miss Meyer taken by Jim Magdefrau

She also commented on what fun it was to teach with former students.  Andy Becker and Don Gibney were two of Miss Meyer’s former students.  She says “That was a hoot!”  She also fondly remembers all the family members she had.  

Judy Boddicker Garber’s, a former BC Elementary teacher and student of Miss Meyer from Newhall, fit this definition.  RoseMary commented, “I had all of her siblings and they all told Joe (the youngest sibling), ‘We had to take her class and you need to as well!’  He did, but I don’t think he liked it very much!  I also taught all of Judy’s own children!  That is scary to think about when I taught children of former students.  

I didn’t get to the third generation – but I was close.  They were in the building, but I never actually taught 3rd generation students.  I have been invited to a wedding of two former students (Kelly Becker and Daron Buch), who each of their four parents (Deanne & Andy Becker and Cathy & Jim Buch) I also taught.  I made sure I got a picture of that!”

Miss Meyer shared with me how helpful people at BC were.  “We had so much fun when we were together!”  Examples she shared ranged from wrestling tournaments, track meets, football games, dressing up for Halloween, coaching cross country,  FFA trips, band trips, FHA trips, sponsoring NHS and Prom.  “Everybody worked so hard to make sure events went off without a hitch.  We all just pitched in and had a ball doing it.”  When I asked her about coaching cross country, she laughed A LOT!  “I had to stay until 4:00 and I thought I may as well be helping.  I asked Wayne if he would like to have me go along to meets since he was coaching both the boys and girls.  The high point of my coaching was when Wayne gave me my own whistle!”   And she still has it.

1980 Yearbook photo

I was inducted into NHS in the summer before the start of my senior year and I remember how much time and energy Miss Meyer put into our induction process and banquet.   I am not sure people who don’t work in education understand the amount of time sponsors of activities spend on their children.  I so appreciate all of those sponsors and coaches who gave of their time for those of us who so greatly benefited from participating in these activities.   Thank you from the bottom of my heart.    

My letter from Aug. 1981
Miss Meyer also shared, it wasn’t just staff that came together, but the community as well.  “We had a prom fund-raiser dinner before a girls’ basketball game vs. Montezuma.  There was a snow storm  the night before the game and school got cancelled, but it was decided to play the ball game anyway.  The mother’s decided they had the food prepared, they might as well host the fund-raiser.  They arrived at the school at 3:30 and by 5:00 they were ready to serve the Swiss steak dinner with dessert.  One mother even had be transported down her lane in the loader-bucket of a tractor to get her pies to the dinner.  “Absolutely a hoot!” 

Miss Meyer also spoke of the times that were incredibly difficult, such as a death of a student.   She remembers how quiet the halls were after a tragic accident where two of our students were killed.  She never objected to the noise in the hall from that point on.  
As I think about how Miss Meyer has impacted my life there are a few things in me which might be a direct reflection of her investment in me:
  • We both agree that being committed and persistent are much nicer adjectives than being called stubborn.
  • We both move from one place to another very quickly.
  • We are both very organized and love to have fun with the people we work with.
  • I don’t twist my hands and say “people” the way she can, but every time I see a ‘toad’ I think of her.     

1981 Yearbook photo
Miss Meyer ended our conversation with, “I had so much fun teaching – thank you for listening to me.  I liked the people I taught with and I respected them and still do.”  I responded, “This is pure joy listening to you!”  To that Miss Meyer laughed hysterically and I thought to myself this conversation has been “Absolutely a hoot!” 

1980 Yearbook Photo

P.S.  As I was reviewing this story with Miss Meyer, I commented to her on how I think we look alike in the photo Mags took of the two of us.  She said she always thought that same thing.   Thanks Miss Meyer for your impact on me and Benton Community. 

50 Years of Benton -- Bridgewater Impact

I've been sharing stories of people who have impacted me in my time as a student and employee at Benton Community on this blog.

Today, I'm proud to share a video put together by my niece, Kim Fisher, and her Kindergarten classroom on the "Mary Bridgewater Impact".  Mary is my mother and Kim's grandmother.

My parents are both amazing people.  My mom loved school and learning.  My dad loved basketball and I don't think would of cared much for school without it.  Together they strongly encouraged all ten of us to be and do the best we could and to use our talents to help others.

Enjoy the video as much as I've enjoyed being part of the Bridgewater and Bobcat Families!

Front row:  Mary, Carol ('98), Eldon
2nd row:  Jim ('85), Barb ('79), Cathy ('80), Jo ('82)
3rd row:  Brad ('90), Tom ('91), Jeff ('75), Rod ('87), Ronn ('77)

Summer Reading Options & Resources

Read. Read. Read.

This was a comment one of my elementary teachers put on our year end report card.  She stressed the importance of reading all summer long.  

I  used this "comment" as a way to convince my mom to let me stay overnight with my friend Ursula.  Ursula and I always had a trip to the library and stopping at my Grandma's house to get some chocolate chip cookies in our adventures when I stayed at her house!   We both loved to read and my G'ma's cookies!

Ursula & me Aug 1, 1974

Our GWAEA Digital Learning Team has shared some resources for summer reading for students.

These are great options for sharing with students for their own "read, read read"filled summers!  Thanks @DLGWAEA 

Monday, May 23, 2016

50 Years of Impact -- Mr. Bell

Mr. Bell's doesn't live in Benton County anymore - so I emailed him to see if we could get together virtually to share part of his story.  In true fashion, as a former English teacher, he felt most comfortable writing responses to my questions and then sending them in an email. The questions I asked of him are black and bold.  His responses are in black and mine are in blue.

Why did kids listen to you?   What do you feel your best lesson(s) to students was?  My evaluations from the several principals that I had at BC and four other educational institutions said that I had good classroom management skills. I never quite knew what that meant. I think it meant that I ran the show and the students knew it. That’s the way my generation was taught, so that is the way that I taught.
My best academic lessons to students were teaching them how to write concisely with supporting evidence or examples and to document their sources. My best life’s lessons were to work hard, to be on time, and do not run your mouth at me because it will not work – maybe at home, but not here.

My listening to Marv started in 7th grade.  He was our coach for Junior High Softball.  He knew the game and we knew he knew the game.  He wrapped a wet towel on his head when it was really hot out.  He taught me to how bunt and slide. I remember those drills and encouragement to “get it down” or “get down”. 

I rode my bike two miles to catch the bus for games and practices during these summers.  This didn’t happen every day, but with 9 kids in the house, if we wanted to get somewhere – we sometimes had to make arrangements on our own.  Mom didn’t have enough space on the family calendar to keep track of all our activities!

While I had Marv as a coach, my mom and I had a collision in the kitchen with hot gravy and coffee.  As a result of the collision, both of those hot liquids ended up on my right forearm.  Marv cleaned and wrapped my arm that softball season so I could play ball without the risk of infection. I don’t think most people would describe Marv as tenderhearted, but he was very careful with my arm.  I had him wrap and clean it because he was not quite as “rough” as my mom was.   

I also had Marv as a Composition teacher as a senior.  During this time, I was dating his oldest and only son.  That made for some interesting class time for me, not sure if the same is true for MarvJ

What is your best memory of your time at BC?  My best memory of BC is my students, the teaching staff, and the administration, all combined as one memory. BC was a great place for me to teach for 39 of my 47 years in teaching, and also for Sherry and me to raise our family.

One of my best memories of Mr. Bell’s as a student in his class was Mr. Bell being at the back door of his portable classroom and having a discussion with Mr. Logan as he hung out his 2nd story classroom window.  In my mind this happened quite frequently and was always entertaining, especially after Mr. Bell shut the door and made a few more comments Mr. Logan could not hearJ  
Mr. Bell 1981 Yearbook photo

What do you feel most proud of in life? I am most proud of my wife, Sherry, who made everything go so smoothly at home for our three children and me. Professionally, I am most proud of having been a teacher for 47 years.

Sherry is another shining example of the spouse who kept the family in-tact while their significant other gave so much to other people’s children.  I remember Sherry as a child-care provider to so many families and then as a food-service worker in our MS/HS kitchen.  I never remember seeing her without a smile on her face or a look of understanding in her eyes.  I have very fond memories of seeing her with other teachers and their spouses and families.   I truly believe they enjoyed each other’s company.  Many times one didn’t know which child belonged to which parent – you couldn’t tell because they were together often as families.  They helped raise each other’s children and developed some incredible adults and friendships.  I was and am fortunate to continue to be friends with many of their children. 

Marv & Sherry Bell with 1957 glove

What teacher in school made the most impact on you and why? This a tie between two teachers, the late Mrs. Opal Eckert and Mr. Larry Brennan. Mrs. Eckert was my composition and journalism teacher. She was demanding. She died a few years ago at age 100. She remains a legend in my home town to this day. She was selected as the outstanding high school journalism teacher in the United States when I was in college.

Mr. Brennan is 81 or 82, and we still communicate by email. He was my history teacher. He lives in Connecticut and is a great baseball fan. Mr. Brennan had Mrs. Eckert as a teacher, too. Mr. Brennan combined great teaching techniques with humor and baseball and related so well with students. As is Mrs. Eckert, Mr. Brennan is a legend with his former students.

Mr. Bell made an impact on me because he never wavered on the priority for learning.  I had trouble with where to put apostrophes and Mr. Bell used a name that I was familiar with to help me try and understand -- the Less family name.  This was not a one-time lesson – he was not going to give up on me.  I was going to learn! 

I did learn relationships with students are one of the most important things we can develop.  Students learn more from teachers they respect and Mr. Bell worked hard to earn the respect of his students.  I wrote a paper once about getting my first bra and Mr. Bell wrote on the top of my paper “An utterly ridiculous tale!” I don’t remember much feedback from all of the instructors I’ve had over all the courses I’ve taken.  But, I remember that comment!  What he taught stuck, not just for the test, but for life.
1979 Yearbook photo
What student/athlete made the most impact on you and why? I will not single out any one student or athlete because I had so many of them in my 47 years of teaching. However, as a group, the students who needed some help and teacher understanding stand out the most. I received the most pleasure and gratitude from those students who needed help in English and sometimes with life.

One of the most impact filled lessons Marv modeled for me as a co-worker was his willingness to work with me as a counselor helping problem solve for and with students, due to their choices or life circumstances.  Marv was demanding, but also incredibly compassionate.  He worked very diligently to make sure students understood the curriculum, but also had success, no matter what their abilities or life situation was. 

What was one of your most defining moments in your career at Benton? I remember too many to mention here. I loved teaching and seeing students learn and having success.

One of the defining moments we feel fortunate to have shared with Marv is he was the teacher of two of our three children.  Katie was a service learner for Marv and got a chance to learn from him, not just as a classroom teacher of Composition, but also as a teacher to students who school might not have been the most enjoyable part of their day.  They share a special story about a peppermint and a U.S. Marshall in the classroom.  Rachael was in the last class Marv taught at BC.  She had the opportunity to walk out of the gym from graduation to Marv’s favorite song, “Old Time Rock and Roll” and now loves to run to that song and that type of music.  Both of these daughters say they are better writers due to the instruction that took place in Mr. Bell’s classroom and Todd and I would agree with this as well for us as writers.

Marv & Sherry with their grandchildren

Why did you choose education as a profession and Benton as a place to work? I chose education as a profession because I had such wonderful teachers in elementary school, junior high school, and high school, although I did not think of that at the time I entered college. My college major was English because that had been my best subject in high school, and I had earned an “A” in each of my college freshman English composition courses. My minor was Athletic Coaching.

Marv also shared with me some other tidbits:
·         He started teaching in 1965 and taught at four high schools, one community college, and one state penitentiary. He taught at BC from 1969-2008.

·         He has a Master’s Degree, plus 42 post-graduate credits.
o   Marv encouraged the love of learning within me.  He was a sounding board for me as a counselor and administrator in the MS/HS.  When I would go to his classroom, he’d say, “Sit down Bridgie and have a mint” and if I listened closely, I would gain some valuable insights into what might have been troubling me at the time.  I very much appreciated his investment, time and encouragement of me. 

·         After retirement from BC in 2008, he taught for four years at a state penitentiary in NW Missouri.
o   Marv shared with me that the students he taught at the penitentiary were just as capable as many of the students he worked with in high schools and they needed and thrived with the discipline and high expectations he had of them. 
         To his former BC students, please remember the following:
o   Eat Krispy Kreme donuts and cheeseburgers.
§  Marv and I both have a hankering for a great cheeseburger.  We made it a tradition to go and have one before the start to the school year for several years we worked together.  I miss these times with him.
o   Turn up the volume for old-time rock and roll music.
o   And “We will learn our colors tomorrow.”

When I think the many connections in life, one that blows my mind having to do with Marv and my family is this.  Marv’s dad owned a jewelry store in Maryville, Missouri.  My dad grew up just north of Maryville and bought my mom’s wedding ring from Marv’s dad. 
In life, we may not know where our paths are going to cross or where our roots are going to land.  We just need to keep planting seeds to trees we may never sit under. 

I hope Marv knows that the shade from his tree is still providing a lot of inspiration for me in my work and life.  I miss his mints and words of wisdom, but I hope I’m able to share some of those same comforts with others who are now stopping by to chat with me.