It’s a long time to be in one place.
Yet, that’s what I’m walking away from, probably today.
23 years in our school district.
I couldn’t write about this Tuesday. I was tied up in knots, crying like I’ve not cried in a long time after school. It was our last day with kids, and while I want to say it was a celebratory day, in many ways, it wasn’t. We had one teacher out because her grandma is not doing well. Our principal was out due to some health issues he’s going through and the kids took advantage. I was physically and emotionally drained from that last day of school and was not writing.
Wednesday and Thursday, I worked to make sure a majority of my check-in was done.
And now, it’s Friday morning and my mind won’t shut down, so I write.
1999 is when I walked into. my school for new teacher training in the district. We’d purchased a house near the school, and we’d moved all our stuff out of our place in Missouri (and would make double house payments because the market was trash). From that day in August until yesterday, I was a fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade teacher. I was a 7th and 8th grade girls basketball coach, then, just an 8th grade girls coach. I’ve been a mentor teacher, a technology coordinator, a college, and best of all, a friend.
So, we’ll see how good my memory is, I just want to personally thank people.
I’ll talk about the sixth-grade “dream team” in a little bit, but the OG dream team was our 5th/6th-grade pod. Carol, Sharon, Kris, and I were thick as thieves and it showed. Every day, we’d be together in the morning, talking, laughing, and the kids would come in and see that relationship with adults as that first positive experience of the day. I learned SO MUCH from that 10-minute time: how to be a teammate, how important relationships were (I knew that already, but that was such a huge reinforcement), and how important it was that the kids see the positive relationship we had and how it transferred to them. This was a big deal in the building and one of the reasons we moved back to rural Iowa, the feeling in school. It was a tangible thing. You walked in and you could almost touch it, taste it, just how good it felt to belong to a district with such talented, passionate people running around like fools. 🙂
Margo became part of the group, and while the vibe changed (if you know you know), it was very much the same. The kids would come in, see us talking and laughing and just being friends and realize this was a great place to be. I walked into a place that was either peaking or very close to that summit. All around me, there were talented, passionate, great teachers doing the things that needed to be done for kids. We throw around the world “family” in districts to gaslight people into doing things, but this truly was a family. We taught each other’s kids, we shared in the highs and lows, and we worked tirelessly to do the right things for students. Again, all places have that, but it was just different here.
Kim and Mandy eventually moved into 5th grade after a couple of hick-ups and again, the vibe changed. I love them both dearly, but they were polar opposites who just made it work. Mandy is a planner, but always had that feel that it was just off the cuff. Kim was one the more serious teachers I’ve ever worked with, but yet, I had the honor of getting my Masters in Education with her and found out she’s got quite the sense of humor. They both were planners and would spend so much time honing their craft. They were master teachers, period.
I’ll head down the hallway for a bit for Kirk and Annette. Annette has been a third-grade teacher since she was in third grade, or so it seems. She is Ms. Honey and you cannot tell me otherwise. There was a picture from a recent track and field day with this little person snuggled in a warm hug and that is what I will remember. Kirk, this soft-spoken giant of a man, who teaches the little with a style I could never have, worked his way into third grade and the two of them have been a fixture there until this year when he finally retired. Both of them have these laughs that light up the faces of kids, both young and old, and it’s hard to imagine a time when I didn’t know and respect them both. Both of my own daughters have been blessed with getting parts of their education from each of them, and we count myself lucky to call them my friends.
Ms. Honey was also down the hallway with Zetta. She is quite possibly the most kind person that I’ve ever met. I’ve never seen her raise her voice to a student, but listening to a scolding she gave one day, I felt like I needed to do better! She had a way with students that just was a joy to watch. In the gym, we had Holly, TWICE! She was there for years, then was cut, then, came back to another version of her old job! She was an amazing basketball coach, earning our school the only state tournament berth during my time there. I had the opportunity to coach middle school basketball with her, and she’s such a wealth of knowledge (which comes from the fact that she’s in a college “hall of fame” for being this absolute beast of a basketball player!
Another teacher I cannot forget is Shirleen. She was a fourth-grade teacher when I arrived and it seemed like was to be that fourth-grade teacher forever! She had a passion for books, language arts, and teaching that was second to none. She became our teacher-librarian for a while, and her ability to find books that students would latch onto, I’ve never seen before. I had her daughter in class and loved talking with her about the craft of language arts. When she retired, it left a huge hole in our building because of her passion for kids. You could just feel that energy that she brought and you knew that you had to keep up.
Declining enrollment hit our school especially hard, and we had to react because of that, so I traveled from the elementary to the middle school when we began to whole grade share our high school. I left behind teachers I spent years with to be reunited with Sharon, Carol, and Robin. Robin, another teacher who’d been there forever, was our math teacher and she knew her stuff. Her sense of humor was quick and her ability to coach golf certainly puts her up there with the best golf coaches in the state of Iowa. She’s also a volleyball referee and does that with a passion that she carried with her as a classroom teacher. I taught with them for three years, then our school consolidated with a neighboring school
And this is where the “Dream Team” arrives. Now, I’ll be honest, I was apprehensive, but I think we all were. I was the only “Valley” person on our team, so we had a meeting before school started just to talk through was sixth-grade would look like. I can say without a shadow of a doubt all my fears were gone after that meeting. Kim (language arts), Kelly F. (math), and Molly (science) were amazing, and had they been at Valley when I arrived, they’d have fit in, no questions asked. Kim, our team captain (though she keeps trying to resign), does not like to give up control of things so was a physical force in our team. Molly and Kelly were the ultimate team players, doing what they needed to do to help all of us out. When Kelly took a different position, then Jenna joined and we didn’t miss a beat. When Molly took another position in the district, a former student, Rachael joined in, adding new energy to sixth grade. Just like in the earlier days, a different vibe for each teacher, but yet, all of them, it just felt right. I’ve been blessed to have taught with each of these amazing teachers over the last five years.
There are so many others: Linda, my first band instructor who I had the chance to teach with and get directed by again. Janet, who build an amazing music program in our little school. Our high school was tiny, but I’d guess 50% of the kids were in music because of Janet. Sadly, she passed away from cancer a few years back, leaving a hole in the hearts of many of us. Ted, friend, college, and band instructor who is able to pull the best out of kids on a daily basis. His influence on our daughters cannot be measured because he simply demanded excellence! Doug, another music teacher both of my daughters absolutely adored. Ardel, the middle school AD of the year for 2022, who simply knows the answers to life. Her ability to see good and connect with kids makes me proud of this school. Kelly, she’s a school council who wears her emotions for kids on her sleeve. She’s got such a personality and a passion for life that just makes you want to do better. Micah, my principal for the last nine years. He’s a passionate man, but in many ways, so much more. He’s a mentor, a positive role model for our students, an educational leader, and a friend. I will miss his sense of humor and wit, along with his ability to lead a very opinioned group of educators! I love each and everyone one of you and wish you only the best. You’ve been my rock for the last 23 years and I am eternally grateful. Teaching is tough, but when you do it with people you call friends, it becomes so much easier. Thank you, friends.
And so many others who’ve impacted me, my teaching, my coaching, my daughters, and our family. Teachers and paras and parents and students who’ve done amazing this for me. I know I’ve forgotten names, but I but to say, “Oh I don’t want to forget anyone so I won’t recognize anyone,” seems silly to me. So, if I’ve forgotten you, know you are in my heart as I take my leave from this district.
Carol, Sharon, Doug, Linda, Mandy, Shirleen, Robin, Zetta, and now Kirk and Kim L. are retired. Such an amazing group to which I am forever in their debt.
Kelly F is at a different school. She reached out a few days ago and is again, teaching math and offered her knowledge if I needed help jumping back into the math game.
Jenna will be moving to the high school to be an instructional coach. She will do great things in her position, influencing both teachers and students. I know a goal of hers is higher education and I cannot wait until she is a professor!
Kim is the last remaining member of the “Dream Team” that was formed five years ago and will carry on all the good things we’ve started. Her leadership will continue to help middle schoolers thrive (and her snarky comments will make our principal cringe 🤣).
Annette will be doing the same, carrying on those ideals of what a team should look like and what those things that made me accept that first position: a love for teaching, a passion for students, and a connection with other teachers, not just as teachers, but as friends.
I will get to work with Kris as she’s a teacher in the district I’m moving into. Plus, I’ll get to work with my wife. I like that idea of the circle of life because my wife and I started teaching together, 29 years ago in a rural Alaskan village on the Bering Sea, so ending my career with her makes me smile.
And me, I’m going somewhere new and different. I write this to calm my mind, but also to remember. So many great people and great memories. Somedays, I hope someone will write about me, that I was a passionate, caring, and wonderful teacher BECAUSE of the people I’ve written about, even though I couldn’t hold a candle to them. They are what I am striving for, each and every day.
Thanks for the memories, Valley and NFV.
On to the next challenge.
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