Will Call: A fond farewell to retiring teachers
We can debate all day about funding and curriculum, but when the rubber hits the road, it’s the teachers who shape us.
Janice Forbes taught me more than the planets and the powers of 10. Her knack for making tough topics accessible to kindergartners gave me the drive to try tackling material just beyond my reach. She turned my natural curiosity into a true search for knowledge and personal improvement.
In fact, by the time I got to sixth grade, I needed a lesson in pacing myself and not taking everything so seriously. Enter science teacher Sue Feeney with a pot of hot chocolate and taped copies of “Voyage of the Mimi” every other Friday. I attempted some of my most ambitious projects in her class — including a working telegraph — precisely because I learned how to take breaks in between.
That also happened to be 2001, and in the aftermath of Sept. 11, it fell to social studies teacher Denise Reynolds to try to give context to what even our parents were having trouble accepting. She made us take it seriously without scaring us further, an invaluable skill in times of upheaval.
Larry Black tempered my seat-of-the-pants academic style with his measure-twice-cut-once philosophy in both drafting and wood shop. He also, I suspect, knows the name of every student to have passed through Roaring Fork High School since he was a freshman himself.
As for Laura French, I can only scratch the surface of her impact. Her willingness to answer all my questions helped me overcome the stigma of being a geek in high school. Her quiet direction of student council made it possible for a talkative but shy student to get involved, and softened the blow when I came in last in the Head Boy election. Even now, a short conversation with her on the sidelines of a football game helps me get my head straight.
Teachers retire every year, but this group is a big one for me. When people dismiss public schools, these are some of the people I would hold up as proof that while the system may be impersonal, the experience is not. In fact, I suspect no one is more frustrated with those constraints and inadequacies than the teachers themselves, who put in immense effort for dreary pay to make it work anyway.
I am confident that all the teachers hanging up their hats, including those I never had in class or don’t know at all, have earned their retirement 10 times over.
I’m tempted to say the schools are less without them, but we survived the retirements of Jerry Pluger, Cliff Colia, Bonnie Cretti and even the loss of Mark Ross. I’m hopeful that others will fill the void they left. In my experience, at least, there are far more McGonagalls than Snapes, more Schuester than Sylvesters, and certainly more Frizzles than Trunchbulls.
Will Grandbois wonders if someone has video of Feeney, Reynolds, Dorais and Zastrow dancing to “Another Brick in the Wall” at the sixth-grade talent show. He can be reached at 384-9105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The first in-person local festival of the year has arrived with Dandelion Day making its return to Sopris Park in Carbondale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday.