Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Benton Community 50 Years - Logan Impact

I've had many great teachers in my schooling and two of them have taught many of the Bridgewater children.  The Logan's know the Bridgewater's well.  Jan taught at least 1/2 of the ten original Bridgewater children and Don had all of us in some capacity as a classroom teacher or counselor!  And those numbers don't include the 2nd generation of Bridgewater's they've had!  In honor of their service to the Bridgewater's and Benton Community, I think both Jan and Don need to be taken out to eat by our parents!

Don and Jan Logan came to BC in the fall of 1970 for a very simple reason -- they both were offered teaching jobs here.  Jan’s 1st year at BC was in the Blairstown Elementary teaching 5th/6th LA and SS.  Betty Kelly was her mentor and Jan loved working with her.  The following year Don Black (Blairstown Principal) wanted Jan to go to 2nd grade, so for her 3rd year of teaching she was teaching her 3rd grade level.  That’s when she met me as a student and my other 33 classmates.

Jan’s memory of me in 2nd grade centered on our Christmas program.  The productions were orchestrating by Jo Offt who was the Blairstown music instructor during that time.  Jan reminded me 2nd graders made paper mache masks for that year's Christmas program.  Mrs. Niebuhr, one of our classroom volunteers, helped us.  As Jan recalls, any able body helped with those Christmas programs.  She remembers with our large class we made quite a mess putting these masks together and that might have been the last time Mrs. Niebuhr helpedJ  My Aunt Macy, who was an associate in our elementary school, recorded, with her 8mm camera, every one of these programs.  I hope that when I have more free time on my hands, I can get those converted to a format that can be shared with others.  My recollection of those programs still brings a sense of pride and accomplishment deep in my heart.  I loved performing at that age and Jo made sure every grade level was able to perform to their best ability each and every year.   

My memory of Jan revolves around three very prominent thoughts in my head.  The first one is how we as 2nd graders “begged and begged” Mrs. Logan to attend our “First Communion”.   I remember being so happy to see her at church on this day.  We had worked hard as a class to get to that point and she validated us by attending.  

One other funny thing that happened at my 1st Communion and has nothing to do with Mrs. Logan, but I'm sure she agreed with the decision my mom made.  My mom gave me the book pictured below for 1st Communion.  I don't remember my mom ever giving me any other book, but I guess she thought I might need a lesson on being better mannered:)  

The second memory of Mrs. Logan's 2nd grade classroom is the effort she took and love she gave in writing a personalized poem for each student in her class on Valentine’s Day.  I can’t find the poem in all those boxes of memories we have in our basement, but I did find the picture of her with me at church on my 1st Communion Day.  She knew her student’s lives were more than just what happened in her classroom.   Mrs. Logan showed us, by attending this event, we meant something to her as people, not just as students.  I’ve tried to live this lesson with my students – to support them in all aspects of their lives. 

Mrs. Logan and myself at 1st Communion
During our conversation, Mrs. Logan reminded me of one other special part of being a Blairstown Elementary student:  the recess bell.  It was such an honor to be the child who got to get and return the bell to the office before and after recess.  As our conversation continued, we both wonder where that bell is now. 

Jan continued to teach 2nd grade for 4 years and then went to part time when she became pregnant with their first child, daughter Emily.  Her part-time position included Title One Reading in Blairstown and then 2nd semester of 1975-76 school year; she went back to full-time by teaching Title One Reading in the morning and 4th grade in afternoon.
Elementary Yearbook 1972 photo

Jan taught at elementary students for 37 years.  After retiring from Benton Community and working with 7-12 year olds, she switched things up and taught college age students for five years.  Don encouraged her to pursue teaching for Kirkwood.  He has taught courses for Kirkwood for fifteen years.  Jan relayed that the biggest difference she saw between the elementary and college age students was with the adults students she “Can’t keep them in for recess or call their parents when they don’t hand in their work” and that was very eye-opening for her:)  She found other ways to motivate and inspire those students!  

As Jan moved into the stage of retirement in her life, she really missed the first day of school.  She never wanted to do anything else but teach, but also knew it was time to retire and both her and Don went into retirement at the same time.

But, before Don could retire, he’d teach me in psychology, government, abnormal psychology and be my student council advisor.  I remember going on a field trip with him to the Independence Mental Health Center.  I was able to make that trip twice and I think that had a tremendous impact on my choice of majoring in psychology in college.  The other person who impacted that choice for me was my mom telling me I "chose psychology so I could figure myself out!"

Jan’s first contract was for $6500 and Don’s was $6800 due to his coaching three sports. When Don interviewed at Benton Community in the spring of 1970, Mr. Manship laid out blueprints for new school.  The bond issue for that school hadn’t passed, but Mr. Manship shared a message of hope that it would soon.  It took 12 votes and nine years later for that passage and the building finally opened in the Fall of 1982.    

One of Don’s initial coaching assignments was being the head boys track coach for 2 years.  He remembers that baseball was a priority at that time and the track boys had to shovel the baseball field for baseball game.  We’d had a State Baseball Championship in 1971, so the track team used that shoveling as part of their workout. 

As Don remembers his coaching days, he remembers that all the kids to him were just “Bobcats”.  He had no idea where they were from within the district.  He believes three things happened in those early years to unify the district: 
  • BC had winning football teams that made it to the state playoffs several years.
    • By the way – the victory bell made its way to Van Horne via Blairstown and some coaches who wanted to have their football team ring the bell after those wins!
  • BC Boys Basketball team went to state for the first time in 1980.
  • The bond issue passed. 
1980 Yearbook photo
All of these events, in Don’s opinion, unified this district and changed the culture of what it meant to be a “Bobcat".  Which meant as educators in the system part of their responsibility was in creating young men and women of character with participation in high school activities.
1980 Boys Basketball Team Yearbook photo

Don remembers the staff working hard and playing just as hard.  There was much comradery between the staff and those feeling spilled out into the entire family of the staff and this set the culture for the school district.  

Don and Jan both agree the staff raised their families together.  Don believes that when the new building opened, some of that comradery was lost and it had to be redeveloped.  He credits Tim Sanderson with making this change with sharing the examples of the Veteran’s Day Program and Homecoming activities.  Tim wanted students to know they were Bobcats from the time they started kindergarten to when they graduated.  He also wanted the graduates and community to know they are, and will always be, part of the Bobcat Family. 

As I remember my time with Mr. Logan as a high school student, I remember planting tulips, selling programs for athletic events and working in the concession stand.  He helped make sure students were guided, but responsible, in making decisions about programming with student council events.  

One of my favorite activities the student council helped plan were our school dances, especially the computer dance.  We had students fill out questioners and then these questioners created matches with other students based on our results.  Mr. Logan's connection with Iowa Basketball also created an opportunity for some Iowa Men's Basketball players to also fill out that questioner.  I remember being matched with Steve Carfino.   Steve didn't end up attending our dance, but I had fun anyway.

We still have Todd's computer match sheet in a box in the basement.  I didn't make Todd's computer list then, but did end up going to other school dances with him.  Just looking and thinking about those events, which Mr. Logan helped us plan, is a blast from the past that makes me smile. I learned much about responsibility, accountability and providing experiences for ALL students to be involved in.

Todd and Jo Senior Prom Picture

As I think about how the Logan’s have both impacted me, I think I love to read in part due to Jan and I think I love to play in the dirt in part due to Don.  I see Jan almost every day walking to and from the library with a book in hand.  When I run or walk the streets of Van Horne, I make sure I take a sneak peak into the Logan's backyard which is full of color, meticulously groomed by Don.  

The Logan's are both very active within our community and are still making a difference for many people due to their commitment to give.  I appreciate all they gave and continue to give to helping me and our community be a better place to live and work. 

Quite possibly they are also waiting for that meal with our parents:)  Maybe I should tell them -- just show up at noon on almost any day at my parents home and my mom will feed you and my dad will make you smile.  I guarantee it!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Kirkwood Workplace Learning Connection Update

Kirkwood Community College is a great collaborator with @BentonCSD.  From partnering with us for student learning opportunities, both on and off campus, providing speakers for classrooms, offering summer learning camps for students, organizing job fairs and career days and offering additional training for staff -- Kirkwood supports our learners.

Click the link below to learn more on how Kirkwood's Workplace Learning Connection is supporting our schools and communities by offering internship experiences for students during the school year and summer months.
Kirkwood Workplace Learning Connection

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

50 years of Benton Community -- Donald Impact

“Success in school or lack of success in school does not indicate your success in life!” 

As I heard those words from Ron Donald my heart wanted to make sure that every person who walks the halls, rides the buses and sits in our classrooms believes in this statement and themselves  - whether they are an adult or child.
Mr. Donald 1982 Yearbook photo
I’ve known Mr. Donald since I heard his name from my oldest brother, Jeff.  Mr. Donald taught Jeff in high school and driver’s education and also coached him in track.  Mr. Donald remembers my brother Jeff describing the first track Benton Community had as the place where “cow-path relays” took place. 

Benton’s first track was measured out on the outside of the football field as close to a 440 as possible.   The farm boys, who were members of track team, helped build the track and field with their knowledge and equipment.   They needed a long jump pit and the boys on the team knew a solution to make that happen.  Rick Nolan said “I can get my dad’s truck and get sand for the pit.”  He drove to Garrison, where they loaded the truck to the hilt with sand.  Driving back Van Horne was a challenge for the overloaded truck, but true to form of “Being a Bobcat” and doing the right things for the right reasons, the team members found shovels and started creating a long jump pit as the truck adjusted to the weight being removed from its bed. 

While the truck was being unloaded, Bart Nolan & Jim Nolan (Rick’s grandfather and father) drove up and said to Rick, “Who’s that young fella?” as they pointed at Mr. Donald who was the dirtiest one in the back of the truck.  Rick responded, “That’s the coach.”   And from that point on Benton Community had a track and field team.  That was in the spring of 1972. 

My brother Jeff told me his favorite coach ever was Coach Donald.  Mr. Donald remembers the 2-mile relay was the first relay team to make it to state from Benton.  My brother was part of that team.  Another member, Scott Thompson told Coach Donald, as he lay on the ground after running and knowing they had just qualified for state, “That’s it – that’s all you’re getting – you’re not getting anymore!”
1975 BC Yearbook photo
Jeff said one of Coach Donald’s work-outs included sending the track team north of town to run the section.  Jeff remembers one night, Doug Silhanek and some others decided to cut the workout short and cut through the fields.  Track happens in the spring in Iowa – so imagine what the fields they cut through might have been like.  There was no hiding the fact they cut off some distance, but not time, from their workout when they got back to the track.  Coach Donald took that decision in stride with his “cheese and crackers” pep talk for the team.

Mr. Donald has tons of memories from his time at BC and can’t really single one out over the other.  In his coaching he does remember why he quit doing tackle drills with his football players.  John Less sent him flying across the field and he quit tackle drills.  He quit racing the football players when Shawn Pfiffner beat him in 100 yard dash.  After 12 knee surgeries, he still wishes he could compete at the level that allowed him to tackle and race his players.  He also remembers Pat Vogel, the 1st Benton Community wrestling state champion, had 3 nail biting matches before being crowned Benton Communities 1st State Wrestling Champ in 1977.

Besides coaching, Mr. Donald also taught Driver’s Education for 50 years.  My brother Jeff also remembers thinking “he didn’t need Driver’s Education” when he had to take it with Mr. Donald.  He was “a farm-kid for cripes sakes and had been driving a long time.”  As I spoke with Jeff about writing this story of Ron, Jeff told me of one of his driving days with Mr. Donald.  Jeff drove north on Highway 21 and Mr. Donald asked him to turn left to go to Elberon and Jeff stopped the car on Highway 21.   Jeff remembers Mr. Donald calmly asking him, “What are you stopping for?” and Jeff responded, “I don’t know, guess I didn’t need to.”  So, maybe Jeff did need Ron’s Driver’s Education, along with the other students Ron taught for 50 years to drive. 

Mr. Donald started teaching and coaching at Benton Community in the fall of 1971.  He made it a habit to be at school by 6:30 a.m. to get his day organized before other people arrived in the building.  He knew he would not have time after school due to his coaching responsibilities.  Over the 28 years he taught at Benton, he taught the following courses:  American and World History, Economics, Government, Consumer Economics, American Issues, and Global.  He developed many of these offerings by taking graduate level courses to increase his knowledge.  His main focus in his teaching was engaging his students to see how small the world was and to become aware of the world outside of Benton County.  He did this by helping investigating, researching and creating connections for his students between their home and the world. 

Mr. Bell and Mr. Donald also recognized that some students might struggle with traditional courses, so they came up with ideas as to how to tailor courses to make students more engaged and successful.  Courses like Practical Government and English 11 and 12 had many cross-curriculum projects and learning assignments.   Ron says since Marv and he was backdoor neighbors, they often collaborated on Donald’s front porch.  I would love to of been an observer of these problem solving and solution focused sessions.  Both of these men have a talent of being able to tell stories that both inform and engage. 

Some of the best compliments he ever received on his teaching came from students.  One he remembers was from a student who was bright and told Mr. Donald after finishing his class, “I learned a lot, I didn’t think I would.   I thought I knew everything there was, but I learned a lot.”  Another compliment was from Joan England, she nominated Mr. Donald for one of the first teacher of the year in Eastern Iowa. 

He also remembers fondly the parents who came to school conferences, especially those mothers he saw year after year after year due to the number of children from each of these large Benton Community families.   He taught many siblings and even was blessed with teaching children of former students.

When I asked Ron and Sally about their decision to move to BC – Ron said “They would hire me!”  Unlike the people I have interviewed before in this series, Ron had sent in his resume from an ad he saw in the paper for a teaching and coaching position.  Mr. Manship and Mr. England called him and told him they liked his resume and he came for an interview in the spring of 1971.  When he was hired he was the Head Football and Assistant Boys Track coach, taught Drivers Ed and Social Studies.  Once when he was showing a team from Linn Mar where their locker room was in the old Van Horne high school before a football game, he overheard one of their players saying, “God, what a dump!” and Ron thought to himself, “Yeah, you are right but it’s our dump!” 
BC Yearbook photo

Ron and Sally have always believed that Benton has been made up of a very special group of people.  The Donald’s first meeting with some families of Benton Community (Bell’s, Eckenrod’s and Logan’s) was at the Bell’s house where they served lemonade and ice tea, which seemed like a good idea at the time.  I have also had tea and lemonade at the Bell house and many great memories of being educated by each of these teaching families. 

Sally and Ron have three children and Sally was a huge supporter of Ron being so involved in coaching and teaching here at BC.  Sally worked at Rockwell Collins for 25 years and was the cog in the wheel that kept their family organized, in clean clothes and fed.   Since Ron and Sally’s twin boys were our age, year-round I spent a lot of time at the Donald home, both in Van Horne and at Holiday Lake, eating Sally Donald food.    As I think about that now – we still do that when their children are back home visiting them!   There has never a time when we have felt we are imposing on the Donald’s.  In high school we just were part of their family and that feeling has continued for the past 30+ years. 

Although I am one a very few BC grads that did not have Mr. Donald as a teacher, one of my favorite memories of Mr. Donald involves my connection to him as a parent of my friends, living in Van Horne.   The girls distance runners from the track team and the Schwan’s man knew each other well.  In the early 1980’s you could charge your parents account if you stopped the Schwan’s man on the streets of Van Horne.  (Sorry mom and dad – I think you might just be learning about these purchases!)  We frequently did this outside the Donald home.   Mr. Donald told us we could keep our purchased ice cream bars in his freezer.  This way when Coach VanEtten sent us on a long run around town, we could stop for a mid-run snack.  Mr. Donald told us as long as he could eat them, his freezer was our freezer. 

Mr. Donald retired from teaching in 1999.  At that time he still immensely enjoyed teaching – even the last day, but the early retirement incentive was too enticing.  He continued to sub and teach Driver’s Education for another 12 years.    Ron and Sally are the epitome of community minded people.  Both have been members of the Van Horne Fire Department (Ron 32 years Sally 12years), Van Horne Lions (Ron since 1971 and Sally since 2001 ), and have both been heavily involved in local and state government – whether that be as serving as Mayor, VH Library Board or running for state office.  Ron and Sally even used their persuasive powers to convince Todd to join the Van Horne Lion’s and he has enjoyed immensely being part of this service organization and giving back to the community. 

As part of their commitment to the Lion’s Club International, they are an integral part of vision screening and transporting corneas and tissue for needed patients and institutions.  The Lion’s motto is “We Serve” and both Ron and Sally are examples of serving others as they live a very successful life!

I am not 100% sure this is Ron and Sally -- but I know they enjoy riding!

Friday, April 8, 2016

50 Years of Benton Community -- VanEtten Impact

How do you thank a man who helped define part of who you think you are as a person?  My best effort is to honor his investment in me by sharing part of his story and acting in ways that make him proud that I'm still a "BOBCAT".

I'm fortunate in my lifetime; I've had many people as role models.  Jim VanEtten has been one of those persons for me since 1976 when I walked into his classroom - the Benton Community Jr. High gymnasium in Newhall, where I also played high school basketball.  
1982 Yearbook photo
(I did not have a lot of BB talent -- so I think it is quite interesting my picture was in the yearbook actually "playing".)
From the earliest memories of deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up -- I knew I wanted to be a Physical Education Teacher.  In elementary I had two fantastic physical education teachers at Blairstown:  Paula Vaughn & Carol Post.  In high school I was blessed with three other fantastic physical education teachers:  Reece Morgan, Jerry Eckenrod and Melinda Krumm.  

When I went to Junior High in Newhall, Mr. VanEtten became my physical education teacher and someone who challenged me to be better every day.  He introduced us to a variety of activities in PE that worked our minds and bodies.  He connected every activity to a purpose and made sure we were not only able to preform the skill, but he tested (yes in PE -- he tested us) on the rules and procedures of the activities he was teaching us.   We ran the bleachers, play table tennis (not ping pong), lifted weights, learned how to line & disco dance, played badminton, flag football and were outside whenever the weather permitted.

Mr. VanEtten taught and coached at BC for a total of 43 years and his legacy spanned part of six different decades and all six superintendents that BC has had to date.  When we met to discuss the 50 years of Benton Community, Jim told me, "This is home and that's why we stayed."  He taught all grade levels in the Keystone, Atkins and the Newhall buildings before moving to the new MS/HS building.  But one constant was that each of the 43 years he taught at Benton he taught 7th and 8th graders.   

I know a strong connection we have is we both love working with the middle level age student.  We were table tennis partners during Activity Period many years we worked together at the Middle School.  I'm proud to say in that time we were undefeated as partners!  Jim is a great table tennis player and he credits his time at UNI with improving his game.  I credit my table tennis skills to Jim and my dad.  They are both wicked with the paddle and applying "english" to the ball.

Mr. VanEtten grew up in Quasqueton, Iowa area and graduated from East Buchanan High School.  He shares stories of his days at "Quasky" and his family cabin on the Wapsipinicon River.  Mr. VanEtten's Varsity Basketball Coach at East Buchanan was Darwin Oelherich (a Keystone, Iowa native).  Yet another connection Jim and I have is I kayak and he canoes the Wapsi.   

He attended and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa (another great connection between us) and had his interview with Don Andrews, (Keystone Principal) for his first teaching job at Benton in the seats of the Old Auditorium on the campus of UNI.  

Old Aud on UNI Campus
Picture Source
When he came to Benton, he taught 7th grade math and physical education in Keystone for grades K-9.  His teaching partner for that first job was Darwin Oelherich, his former coach.  Another connection -- his former teacher became his teaching partner, just like Jim and I.

His wife, Pam, also worked for the district as a building secretary for several years and was a huge supporter of Jim being so involved in the district.  He has every contract he ever signed to work for Benton, and knows his own kids, at some point, will enjoy looking through all the artifacts he's saved over the years.  His first contract was for $5800 plus a couple hundred for coaching some junior high events.  

Funds were tight in their early days of their marriage, so he also drove the activity bus for events.  When radios were put onto the buses, he made a decision that he was not going to turn it on, on the way to the event, and maybe just possibly, he'd turn it on the return ride home.  His recollection was that the radio's just made the buses noisier.  He also did summer maintenance for the school for many years.

Jim coached many activities over the course of his career at Benton Community and was also a member of the Newhall Fire Department for 20 years.  His coaching assignments over the years include the following:
  • Junior High Football for 30 years
    • He remembers a few of those seasons they were undefeated!
  • Boys' Basketball for 21 years and now 4 years at Williamsburg (coaching with his son.)
  • Girls' Track for 26 years & 9 years with Jr. High Boys
    • He was my distance coach and I loved working for him.  He was great about giving feedback to make my workouts more effective in a way that made me want to listen to him (which I wasn't real good at as a teenager - just ask my parents).
  • Girl's Golf 4 years
  • Jr. High wrestling for 2 years
    • One year he coached junior high wrestling - sent the wrestlers home on the early shuttle and then jumped off the stage at Keystone and started coaching boys' basketball until the late shuttle came. 
As he spoke of his time with the Newhall Fire Department he shared a few stories.  One of them involved how he felt after one particular call.  He said he left the house and cried because he was so grief-stricken for the family.  I never told Jim, and I'm not sure he knows, but I attended his mom's funeral and I cried uncontrollably during the ceremony.  I had heard many stories about Jim's parents and I was grief-stricken for him.  Another connection -- we care deeply and show it.
Ray Manship was the Activities Director early in Mr. VanEtten's coaching career.  Jim remembers one activity meeting, Manship commented, "All you young guys I see wearing college sweatshirts at Benton practices should get rid of those and you should be wearing some type of Benton apparel."  That message stuck with him about the importance of promoting what it means to be a "Bobcat" both by your actions and your words.

As we talk about his coaching, he rattles off former player's names and their strengths like he just left practice.  He told me he didn't know what town kids came from, but they were all Benton kids and athletes.  That's just the way he thought.

When we talked about his teaching, I told him I have always marveled at the way he earned students respect.  His response to this was "We usually get what we expect.  If you don't expect it, you aren't going to get it."  In his career he doesn't think he sent kids to the office or the hallway for the entire class period.  He expected them to be in class and completing the learning activities and for the most part that happened.  When it didn't, students got a 1:1 conversation with him in the hallway and then returned to class.  

He organized activities for the staff and students to interact in together.  These activities helped build relationships between staff and students that revolved around a common purpose of teamwork and learning to be "Bobcats".
    Volleyball Challenge Outfit
    He sports it well!

    Two of the most memorable moments of his tenure at BC stick out for him.  One is from the summer of 1982.  This was the summer the move took place from the "old" high school to the "new" middle/high school.  He said he walked into the new gym and thought "this is going to be heaven".  

    The second most memorable event was when he walked out the door of the MS/HS for the last time as an employee of the district.  For the first year of retirement he missed the students, but mostly the people he worked with.  When his son Mike asked him to come and coach basketball with him that second year of retirement, he didn't bat an eye -- he was ready to interact with kids and enjoys going to practices and games.  The other benefit of that gig is being able to coach his grandsons with his son. 

    The VanEtten's consider Benton home and never seriously considered looking elsewhere for employment.  They both like small towns and being close to family.  Jim also does not like stoplights and big cities.  (That almost sounds like he is describing me).   He taught me so much by being a beacon of positivism.  He was always looking for solutions and sharing the importance of family.  He stayed current in his field over those 43 years and was always trying to find ways to connect the student learning to what was relevant to the students he had in his classroom each and every year. 

    Jim would teach the entire PK -12 staff CPR at the beginning of every year before the students came back during pre-service days.   During his CPR presentation, he'd slip in a little of what he loves -- family stories, music and dancing.  Over the years we learned how to dance the YMCA, Macarena and danced to "She thinks my tractor's sexy" as he shared stories of his family trips to the Black Hills (one of his favorite places) and his family, especially his grandchildren.  He's very proud of ALL of them!

    I became Jim's principal in his last few years of his teaching career.  He taught me so much about leading.  He was great about finding me in the hallway, classroom or office and saying, "Hey boss, have you thought about..."  His purpose was to set the system up for success and he made sure that he was looking out for the best interest of everyone.  Two of his best lines he repeated frequently, just at the right time, to those of us who were blessed with sharing his space were:  "I've got calluses on my feet that are older than you!" and "Your Christmas bonus check is in your mailbox."  

    Mr. VanEtten and myself
    As we were ending our time together, he said "I didn't complete one part of my job when I retired -- I'm sure there were some dirty towels somewhere!" and then gave me one of the best hugs I ever received from a co-worker, role model, motivator and former teacher:)  I'm so honored to be connected with Mr. VanEtten as "Bobcats".

    Mr. VanEtten as captured by Mike Embretson