A lifetime of teaching in the valley | PostIndependent.com

A lifetime of teaching in the valley

Trina Ortega
Carbondale Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Trina Ortega photo

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Carbondale Middle School (CMS) student Gerry Hernandez remembers when he first became interested in origami ” it was during a second-grade math lesson with “Miss Rosemary,” a longtime volunteer in the Roaring Fork School District.

Now in sixth-grade, Hernandez once again gets to work with Rosemary Clark folding strips of colorful paper into octahedrons and stars, learning about math without even knowing it.

“Basically, I’m trying to show children that there’s more to math than boring old arithmetic,” Clark said. “The kids will sometimes say, ‘Oh, we missed math class today,’ and the teacher and I will look at them and say, ‘You’ve been doing math!'”

Clark has been a volunteer in the Carbondale schools for 36 years, and although she doesn’t have as much time to dedicate to the kids this year, she shows up for an hour every other day at CMS.

Whether working with students who need extra help in math or mentoring the advanced kids, Clark uses puzzles, games, artwork (such as the geometrically distorted lithographs of M.C. Escher), and the complex origami projects to make math fun.

Hernandez recalled how after working with Clark that first time in grade school, he went to the library and checked out a book about origami.

“Since she started teaching me origami, that’s why I started to like origami and that’s why I started to do all these things,” he said while tucking the folded point of a red strip of paper into the pocket of an orange piece.

“She also taught us bowling and then took us bowling,” he added.

Hands down, the students agree that Clark’s lessons are more fun than textbook problems, proof that her philosophy to make math fun is adding up.

Roaring Fork High School Principal Cliff Colia, formerly the principal at CMS, worked with Clark for 14 years. He said she has a special way of helping students “stretch their mathematical minds.”

“I think what she does is she opens a lot of minds to the possibilities of what they can do with all things math,” he said.

Clark volunteers for the school’s Math Count, helping students prepare for the national-level program and driving them to compete in Grand Junction.

“The thing about Rosemary is she is as good as gold,” Colia said. “You can count on her to be there. You could build a program around her. … Plus she has a high level of expertise. She is a franchise.”

Clark is a licensed teacher and had taught in the Colorado towns of Boulder, Littleton, and Dolores. Upon moving to Carbondale in 1972, where husband David accepted a faculty position teaching science at Colorado Mountain College, she also was a substitute teacher.

“When I was subbing, I’d have to give up and miss some of my volunteer classes, and I’d rather volunteer than sub,” Clark said.

Chalking up nearly four decades in the Carbondale schools gives Clark the advantage of knowing a lot of people in the valley.

“I’ll go into the bank and the teller will look at me and say, ‘I did math with you back in the third or fourth grade,'” she said.

Others may recognize her for the other volunteer jobs she has held ” directing Girl Scouts, forming soccer clubs in the 1970s, conducting English Sword Dancing, and leading “Mertensia,” the Carbondale Community United Methodist Church’s handbell choir.

She has a degree in geology but when she first entered the workforce, she was not allowed to work with the rocks and minerals that she so desperately loved. Instead, the U.S. Geological Survey assigned her to a desk job with tasks “appropriate” for a female.

As a result, she regards geology as a “wonderful hobby” that she shares with her husband, who is an expert in flora and fauna.

The two also enjoy playing in the handbell choir together, playing their recorders, and going to the monthly contra dances in Glenwood Springs.

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