Monday, May 9, 2016

Benton Community 50 Years -- Theresa Thompson Impact


When I see that symbol I think of Theresa Thompson.  I had the pleasure of working with Theresa as a staff member from the time I moved to the MS/HS building as a counselor in 1997 until she retired in 2015.  T² was great about making me feel part of the “Bobcat Family”.  

T² has many strengths and talents.  One of them I noticed right away was her organization and tidiness.  Theresa shared her classroom with me for 8 years.  I know sometimes our class learning activities were not part of the ELA curriculum – but T² allowed us to do what we needed to make the learning meaningful for students, as long as we put things back where they belonged.  I tried very hard to make sure when we were done using her room for our “careers learning”, it was ready for 7th grade ELA learning without missing a beat.  As she reflected with me where that desire to have an organized classroom developed in her, she spoke of her former teacher Mrs. Teahen. 

Theresa remembered Mrs. Teahen being an “awesome teacher who was perfectly dressed and her class was always organized.”  Theresa said Mrs. Teahen was the person who inspired her as a student with reading and writing instruction to become a teacher who passed inspiration along to her own students – which T² did for 31 years.   Theresa wants to be remembered as a teacher that instilled work ethic and the importance of reading as a life skill – “not quite as important as breathing – but pretty darn close!”
Theresa learning Google tools in 2011

When I asked Theresa about one of her best memories of her time at BC she told me that was a crazy question.  One thing I can always count on T² being is honest.  I very much appreciated how T² would come to my office (counseling or administration) to share her thoughts and insights to make sure I was in the loop.  She shared information and her insights to help me make good decisions, whether that involved a student or staff concern.  I very much appreciated these conversations. 

She did finally respond to my ‘crazy question’ with, “If I had to pick one thing, it’s the kids I taught and the people I worked with who were phenomenal.  We are Bobcats.  Being a Bobcat means being on the same page of character, integrity and knowing and doing the right thing.  We are supportive of one another, celebrate with and commiserate together.  But, the key word that binds Bobcats is “together”.
 
Jacque Sanderson and Theresa chaperoning a MS Dance in 2003

Theresa feels she was part of the MS Dream Team of which she learned much from and shares much with.  One of her favorite start of the year happenings was when Jim VanEtten would come into to her classroom on every first day of school and fill his coffee cup.  He would shake her hand and say, “What do you say kid?  Let’s do it another year”.  Theresa thought in some ways her job was one of the easiest job in the world because of the consistency within the middle school staff.  She commented that we took care of ourselves and each other by supporting one another. 
MS Staff 2008

Theresa graduated from Loras College in 1981 and subbed in the Cedar Rapids and Central City school districts before landing a job as a study hall monitor and coach at Marion.  She coached volleyball, basketball and softball at Marion.   She became aware of an opening at Benton when her principal, Larry Twachtman said, “I hate to tell you this, but Lee Wise called and said BC has an opening and wanted you to be aware of it.”  

Theresa called and set up an interview with HS Principal Don Gibney for the next day.  She brought along her letter of application, resume, transcripts and letters of recommendations.   After meeting with Don for about 45 minutes she said, “When will you let me know about your decision on this position?”   He responded, “The job is yours if you want it.”   She went home and told her mom she could “quit praying to the patron Saint Jude” (Saint of lost causes), because she had “just accepted a full-time teaching job.” 

T² helped start the volleyball program at BC in the fall of 1984 with Linda Runkle.  She remembers building up the program took lots of blood, sweat and tears.  One of the most gratifying feelings of all that effort came during the 2nd season of volley ball at Benton Community when the team won a match.  During her tenure as a volleyball coach they also won a conference championship. 

After 18 years of coaching volleyball she retired from coaching.  That all changed in the fall of 2002 when Kal Goodchild got down on one knee and said “Please coach 7th grade volleyball.  I have no one to coach these kids.”   She told me, “How could I say no?   Dave didn’t even do that when he proposed to me!  So, I coached for one more year.”  She also coached basketball for 7 years and softball for 10.  Theresa was also sponsor for the MS Musical for 6 years and HS speech for 2 years.  All of those years of coaching and sponsorship were a huge gift from T² to our extra-curricular programs.  They are stronger because of her commitment to our students and programs. 
MS Staff VB Champs 2002


As Theresa looked into her transitioning from full-time teaching into her next phase of life, she jumped right into full-time volunteering.  She became part of the Van Horne Lion’s, Benton Scholarship Foundation Board and our Benton Community Board of Directors.  She also kept her job as head timer at all our track meets.  I’m not quite sure a track meet at BC would run so well without her organizational skills at the finish line.    

One reason she decided to run for the school board was it was a great way to stay involved in education.  She believes this is a great school district with a great superintendent.  She thinks her transition to this new role in the district has gone smoothly and she is learning about the budget and appreciates the way the administrative team explains new learning to the board. 

The volunteering does not stop with Theresa in the Thompson Family.  I have often seen her husband, Dave, in our community helping others.  He snow plows for many residents of Van Horne, collects and stores cans and bottles for the Van Horne Rec Department and helps build playgrounds.  I’m sure there are many other things the Thompson's do for our community that I am not aware of.  The Thompson's are givers to our community.

When T² left her classroom after 31 years, she left behind a legacy of the importance of working hard and being a learner.  She also took her boom box that played some fantastic toons the staff danced to as the students entered the MS Pod area.  I tried to find a video we had of her dancing in the hallway in front of the security cameras for this story – but it is currently hiding from me.  If I find it, I’ll link it in
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I have missed seeing Theresa on a daily basis during the school year.  She always had a way to make me smile and or laugh every day I worked with her.  I’m glad that she is willing to sub for us, serve on our board, work our track meets, serve on our board, be involved in our community, serve on our board and keep us all organized, smiling and laughingJ 

I have been sharing blog posts with the spotlighted people before I post them to make sure I have their information correct.  When I did this with Theresa – here was her response (and I quote), “I sure hope you don't find that video footage!!  I guarantee Dancing with the Stars will NOT be calling me!!"

There are many things I love and her sense of humor is high on the list! 

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