Friday, May 20, 2016

50 Years of Impact -- Mrs. Garbers

“Mother, Mother I love you here are reasons why I do:”

If you know those words, it is most likely due to Judy Garbers.  Every Mother’s Day she would host a Mother’s Day party in her classroom.  She would have her students recite a poem starting with the line above.  Students would sing songs, make treats, serve punch and give away a plant in pots they had made in class to their mother or someone in the room they loved.  Judy remembers fondly that those mother’s (or stand in’s) loved coming to class for this celebration and her students loved preparing for and sharing on this day. 

Events like this define Judy and how she taught in her classrooms at Benton Community for 30 years.   Creating space where learning and love flowed freely.   I never had Judy as a teacher, but my husband did.  When I spoke of Jan Logan and my memories of 2nd grade, Todd shared how he also loved his 2nd grade classroom and his teacher.  Judy was the teacher in his classroom. 

1973-74 Elementary Yearbook Photo

One of Judy’s best memories of her time at BC was when she would have students write letters to themselves and then Judy gave them back to them at graduation.  Seeing her former students grow up into adults has been a very rewarding sidebar of teaching.  She likes to see them and hear their stories about their careers and families.

Judy also remembers when former students would come back to her class and share stories.  She recalls when Chad Hennings came into speak to the 3rd grade students.  He’d put his arms around my shoulder and told my students, “I want you to do what Mrs. Garbers tells you to do.”  The students all responded, “We will!” and then after he left one of the students said in awe, “You know him?”  She told the students, “Yes, I know him and he was a student once just like you are now.”

Judy remembers teaching a section of 32 students and appreciates all the parents who have thanked her over the years.  She told me, “I didn’t do anything that I didn’t want to do – I wanted to be there.”  

Judy grew up in the Newhall area where she played some basketball and was a cheerleader.  One of her teachers who had an impact on her was her high school business teacher, Ms. RoseMary Meyer.  Judy commented, “She made a huge impact on me.  She was why I chose business to study in college.  She kept me in line and taught me discipline.  She was a disciplined person and the older she got the younger looking she got.  She is a neat gal.”  Mr. Harder also drove her bus.  For those of us who have been around BC for some time – both those names are familiar to us. 

One common theme in many of the stories I’ve been writing is how people got hired to work at Benton Community and Judy’s story fits this theme.  She was working at Collins, was married with three children and a business degree.  She told Dutch she would like to teach because she liked being around children so much.  So she became a “late bloomer” student at Mt. Mercy College.  

She remembers it being a struggle for their family financially – but shared “We made it and it’s worked out great!  I studied whenever or wherever I could and Dutch was a great support.”

Judy & Dutch Garbers
As she was attending one of her philosophy courses at Mt. Mercy, she was called out of class to take a phone call.   Dr. Grabinski was on the other line and offered her a 2nd grade teaching job in Keystone.  She was thrilled and ended up teaching 2nd grade for years and 3rd grade for 5 years retiring in 2000.  She has continued to sub for 16 years. 

Students she had a soft spot for were those that had good attitudes, but may have been lacking in some of the academic skills.  She imagined students with “halos on their heads which sometimes she had to polish.”

She remembers having very consistent rules and high expectations for students.  One student told her once, “I know Mrs. Garbers, there are home rules and school rules and we need to follow school rules when we are here.”   Judy said, “Students know and want to meet our expectations.”  She worked for Mr. Andrews, Mr. Black and Mr. Sanderson as building principals.  She also had Mr. Junge as a 2nd grade student.  She believes each of these administrators were and are very supportive of students and staff.  One did tell her once, “Judy, you can’t expect 100% all the time!” to which she responded, “If I don’t, who will?”  She remembers Mr. Andrews giving her a bag of mushrooms the night before he died.

When our conversation turned to what matters in life, she told me “What we focus on in life has to be important!”  One thing that is important to her is reading to kids.  She told her students, “Always find something to read.”

Judy is very proud of her granddaughter Anna.  Anna teaches 1st grade in Keystone and says she and her other grandchildren, children and great grandchild are a “source of joy to her and Dutch.”  Family is so important.
Anna & Carson 
Judy also told me to take the opportunity to travel when you can.  “Life is what you make it – no matter what it is!”  She also shared a line once said at an in-service “Attitude not aptitude determines altitude!”  

I love the message conveyed in that line and here’s the reason why I do; they sum up how Judy taught students for life and not just for a year.  

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