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?