By Deb Hendrickson
Merriam-Webster defines the word “teacher” as one that teaches, especially one whose occupation is to instruct. Although not all of us are teachers by profession, in every sense of the word we all have taught or instructed someone at some point in our lifetimes. Nonetheless, we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to the countless many who educate our children. Not to mention those who educate us in our latter years as post secondary students.
This week, May 4-8, is delegated as Teacher Appreciation Week with May 5 being National Teacher Day. What a prime time to acknowledge the people who dedicate themselves to the art of teaching.
The teaching staff at Bennett County School District are currently responsible for educating 513 students. With 51 certified teachers employed at the District, this makes the ratio 10:1.
Six certified teachers who have worked at the District for 30 years and over are: Karen Goetzinger (34); Joyce Strain (33); Terry Laverack (31); Rosemary Buchmann (30); Jeanene Fuchs (30) and Gail Winter (30).
Three new first year certified teachers at BCSD include: Patricia Miller, Alyssa Rous and Jacklyn Johnson.
Two teachers from the District responded to this reporter’s questionnaire regarding their teaching experience. Knowing things at this time are especially challenging for them, I appreciate the effort they put forth.
Jr. High Social Studies Teacher
I teach 7th grade Geography and 8th grade U.S. History. I have been in the Bennett County School District since 1993. I started out teaching at one of our country schools, Tuthill. I have been teaching for 35 years. I started out as a preschool teacher, taught reading and math to students who needed additional help. I’ve taught 3rd - 8th grades and even spent a year as a librarian. For the first 24 years, my focus was on reading. In 2008, I received a master’s with a specialist in Reading and then in 2012, I got a master’s in Administration. For the last three years, I decided to change my focus and have been teaching social studies. History has always been another passion of mine.
My parents were both teachers and I spent a lot of time in my mom’s second-grade classroom. I went to Brookings High School and they had a program where we were able to assist either a business or classroom teacher for credit. I loved it! I have been working in some form of education since. The students are what makes my career rewarding. They are the ones who make you want to come to work or not. Over the years I have been blessed with many students that have a special place in my heart.
The most disappointing experience during my career has been the students whom I wish I could have helped more. The most memorable recognition hasn’t necessarily been during teacher appreciation week but it’s when I see a past student and they seek me out or times I’ve received letters from students; past and present indicating how much I’ve meant to them. That is why I teach.
With the pandemic, there have been quite a few changes. I try to have a mixture of paper and technology activities within my classroom but many of our students and parents have wanted paper. This is causing more frustration for me because I would love to meet with them on Zoom so we could talk out our lessons together. I have had students call me and ask for help. In fact, one student and I spent about 30 minutes texting back and forth so I could explain the lesson and give them additional instruction. When I was done with it, I felt pleased I could help but also my mind was blown away realizing the seemingly unlimited possibilities technology can give us. In the past, this would not have been an option.
I’m going to say that one of the funniest times in my career was last year. As a building, we had challenged the students to complete their work and they would have a chance to throw a pie (whipped cream) in our faces. I had some students so excited to do that they couldn’t wait until the day of the pie-throwing. In fact, many teased me about it almost every day. I didn’t care because if it got students to complete their work, it was worth it. You should have seen the fun they had and the expressions on their faces. That’s why I teach and continue to teach.
English and Language Arts Teacher
I teach Advanced Placement Literature and Composition, Pre-AP English III, English III, English IV, mythology, and yearbook.
My mythology and yearbook classes are open to students in grades 9-12, and the English classes are juniors and seniors.
I was born and raised in Martin. I graduated from Bennett County High School, as did my husband and our two sons. I have a personal appreciation for our schools, and I know how truly great they are.
In the fall of 2020, I will be starting my 22nd year of teaching, all at Bennett County. I have taught every grade in the district over this time. I went to school for art, but during that time I also taught in a pre-school and had two kids of my own. I think teaching came naturally for me, so I decided to major in art education. My career has had a lot of twists that have led me to the position I am in now.
There have been so many rewarding experiences. A personal one was earning my National Board Certification. Another one happens every year when I watch the seniors graduate . . . it is always great to reflect on how much they have grown and achieved over the past four years.
There have been many disappointing experiences as well, but I try to let them go. I believe all experiences are necessary to develop our character. I am learning to not take things that others do disappoint us, personally. Also, if we learn from the things that do not go as planned, we cannot be disappointed because we grow from it.
One year, the administration did a little something every day, including delivering a breakfast of a choice consisting of rolls and juices on a cart to us in our classrooms. It was a great way to start the day. It is always awesome when the students write letters about how we impact them; brings me to tears every time!
Your question about how much my life has changed over the course of the past few months is a loaded question! Change is hard, and changing from teaching in the classroom to distance teaching has been difficult. The workload has definitely increased because teachers are challenged with creating lessons that can be done online as well as in paper. Not having a regular structure, spending a lot more time in front of a screen, and constantly messaging students and family has really modified my typical day. It’s hard to reach some families, and that concerns me. However, I am hopeful that a couple positives will come out of this; including that we will have built stronger relationships with our students and their families, and that they see their teachers, staff, and school as allies and resources to their future. The biggest frustration is just not being with the kids. We teach so much more than just our content, and I really miss the connection of being face-to-face in the classroom.
Every day there is a new, funny situation that happens—just ask some of the students! We laugh often in my classes, and sometimes you have to laugh at yourself, too. There are so many inside jokes, funny questions, misspoken thoughts, accidental moments, and even a few pranks to try to pick just one is impossible—and I treasure them all.
A typical day in the life of a teacher could possibly go like this. Arrive at school at least one hour before the students and if you are lucky, this hour can be spent as prep time or a chance to finish grading papers. As students begin to arrive, you could possibly have hallway duties since being visible to the students out of the classroom setting is also important. Perhaps you will have lunchroom or playground duties. A teacher in our District teaches seven periods, consisting of 55-minutes each, one 35 minute ICU class and one 55-minute prep period every day. Evenings and weekends are typically spent preparing lessons, writing tests or grading papers. School is in session from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., four days a week, mid-August through mid-May.
Some people have the misconception that teachers only work nine months out of the year. Although it is true that they might not be teaching students in a classroom and school is not in session, it is also true that they could be a student themselves. Keeping up with the state’s certification requirements, taking classes to continue educating themselves in their specific area of instruction or striving to obtain their Master’s or Doctorate Degrees are all things that teachers pursue during the summer months.
Cecilia “Tootie” Moffitt, BCSD Grade School Secretary, tops the ranks of the longest employee of the District with 45 years experience.
Beverly Heath has served 32 years in the District; including being an Aide, Librarian and Bus Driver.
Kim Claussen’s 31-year commitment has included being a Para-professional, as well as working with the JAG Program.
Karen Coyle has been an employee of BCSD doing Administrative duties for the last 30+ years.
Teachers wear many hats and face some challenging situations, they are to be commended. It is also imperative that we acknowledge the staff members at BCSD who have spent years in their positions. Just looking at the years of commitment that the above-mentioned people have devoted to their jobs is a humbling realization.
A few thoughts on things teachers may appreciate.
• One hour of pure unadulterated silence
• A day where their opinion actually matters
• Jeans week
• A day to do whatever they want with their own family
• Shopping spree for classroom supplies
• No angry parent e-mails for a week
• A magic wand to transform the rough home lives of some of their students
• A really, really long nap
• A simple, meaningful thank you letter.
Hat’s Off to all of you and Thank You for your commitment to our youth!