Superintendent’s Message: Public Education Shapes Lives
Standing before a classroom of students, a teacher never really knows who is in the audience. There could be future celebrities, teachers, doctors, engineers, scientists, police officers, company managers, office assistants, store clerks, food service professionals, webmasters, game designers, and movie producers. Many of the students in the class will find employment in careers that have yet to be established.
This month, students will graduate from high school to begin a new journey in post- secondary education or the workforce. College students will venture out in pursuit of their life’s passion. Among them, new teachers who will anxiously prepare classrooms for yet another generation of learners. But still others will retire or redefine their career path, also beginning a new phase of their lives. And so, the month of May seems a good time to reflect on the value of education.
We recently invited some community members and our retirees to reflect upon their personal experiences in school. Their words speak so poignantly to how our lives are shaped by public education, I had to share some of them with you.
“I knew at an early age that I wanted to pursue a career in health care of some kind. Going through Emporia Public Schools, I met countless educators who fostered the desire in me to endlessly pursue more knowledge and opportunities. Emporia schools played a large role in where I have gone in life, and I am truly thankful.”
Scott D. Maley M.D.
“I attended public schools in Emporia from K-12. We learned how to strive for success, work as part of a team, and most importantly, how to interact with others. My kids are second-generation students, and I appreciate the education they receive in Emporia.”
Jon Geitz, Financial Advisor and Emporia Mayor
“I remember each and every one of my elementary school teachers by name. I had a number of teachers in high school who were a profound influence in my life. I learned something from the experience – to persevere on my own and with the help of my peers accomplish positive things. This wide range of experience is mirrored in our life choices as adults.”
Roger Hartsook, radio sales and former Board of Education member
“I am a proud and successful product of public education! That education grounded me and gave me a firm foundation on which to grow as a student and as a person. I am forever grateful to the teachers who believed in me and cared enough to spend time challenging my intellect and enhancing my educational abilities so that I could become a productive citizen of the world, a lifelong learner, and a proud educator.”
Carol Strickland, retired teacher and National Teachers Hall of Fame executive director
“Working with the faculty and staff of EHS and USD 253 have afforded me opportunities to grow both professionally and personally. Teaching in Emporia has made me a better citizen, a more complete and prepared professional, and a more deeply thoughtful and empathetic person.”
Connie Ferree, retiring EHS science teacher
“In the 22 years I have been in the school district, there have been quite a few notable changes in my job description. With the implementation of Literacy First, my job entailed small groups of children K-5. Along with all of these changes came an increasing importance of technology. I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve struggled, but I have grown and learned.”
Margie Coffman, Logan Avenue, retiring teacher’s aide
“I can say that the last 30 years has been an interesting journey for me. I have learned a lot about working with many different entities within the district which has given me insight for relationships with fellow workers in my future job. I have learned a lot of valuable skills from the maintenance men, from plumbing to boiler maintenance.”
Brenda Zabriskie, William Allen White, retiring custodian
“I have been blessed to have worked as a cashier during lunch at Emporia High School. I’ve seen the kids every day and watched them grow over their four years of high school. They are my customers, and a friendly smile and ‘how are you doing?’ during lunch time really brightens my day.”
Julie Smith, retiring food service employee
“Providing a few lines for a long career could encompass a novel. Chapters 1 through 24 brings to life all of the fantastic, special students I have been blessed to teach. Thank you, dear students.”
Nancy Gilpin, retiring instructional coach
“My experiences in the Emporia school district have been varied – teaching in an open concept school without traditional grade level groups to teaching special education in different buildings and to different aged students. Being back in an elementary setting had been my wish and I love having the same students for more than one year to see the gains they make! Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been blessed with some wonderful students and excellent colleagues who have made my life richer!”
Elaine Patterson, retiring special education teacher
“I have been blessed to work with amazing people in USD 253. My career has been extremely rewarding; I never stop learning! The Logan staff is like a family to me and I will miss them dearly. I would like to say thank you for the many opportunities that came my way!”
Teresa Barrett, retiring school secretary
“I have appreciated the opportunity to teach at EHS, and hope I have made a positive impact on the 3,582 EHS students that have gone through my classroom. Hopefully, I have made them more aware of positive nutritional choices, good food preparation practices and increased their awareness of safe food preparation for home and the culinary industry.”
Alvena Baxter, retiring Family & Consumer Sciences teacher
“I’ve worked with many terrific students with very different exceptionalities. But most of all, I’ve worked side by side with very outstanding teachers during this past 36 years.”
Mary Ann Blaufuss, retiring paraeducator
“My most recent 11 years have been in kindergarten. All students are unique, but diverse teaching styles meet the needs of most learners. For me I find the most difficult and most rewarding teaching happens when I find the key to teaching a child who doesn’t learn like everyone else.”
Pam Thuma, retiring kindergarten teacher
It’s clear that education is the foundation upon which futures are built. It can open doors to opportunity, broaden our view of the world, narrow the gap of social and economic disparity and bring meaning and quality to our lives. From a parent’s wish to the teacher’s passion and persistence, education makes the difference!