IT HAS BEEN A GREAT JOURNEY

It is nearing the end of another school year. I never fail to become a bit nostalgic at this time of the year, even though I retired from teaching several years back.

It has been a great journey! It was sixty-two years ago, on a sunny September morning in 1951, when I stepped into my first classroom as the teacher. I thoroughly enjoyed my work as an educator during that time span. Through the years, those met along the way have become a memorable part of that journey. But, the students in particular, THEY are the ones who will never be forgotten!

Often, during my years of teaching...at the end of the day, after the students would leave to return home...I would gaze at their empty desks and ponder: what will these students be doing in the years to come? Of course, I had no way of predicting their future. But, somehow I kept in touch with some of them through the ensuring years.

It all began that morning, Wednesday, September 5, the second day after Labor Day in 1951. My first two years of teaching was that as a fifth grade teacher. For the purpose this column, I am randomly citing only several of the students of my first two years (of course, the names have been changed). There was thoughtful, dependable Priscilla; she was the very first student to enter my classroom that September morning 62 years ago. And there was conscientious, dedicated Martha; energetic and thoughtful Ryan; creative and bubbly Phyllis; hard working and dependable Ken; considerate and affable Melinda; athletic and tender-hearted Rachel; studious and good-natured Ricky; and everyone's friend and truly caring Laurie. To complete this random listing, there was genuinely thoughtful Dylan; dependable, fun- loving Darlene; helpful, kind-hearted Dave; jovial always smiling Larry; and everyone's helper and 'friend to all' Mark. Most of these students were 10 and 11 years of age at the time, and what a marvelous group they were! Each individual was so special in their own way! They were creative, thoughtful, dependable, energetic, conscientious, at times creatively mischievous, and bursting with enthusiasm and stamina. Several were in need of extra encouragement and supportive reassurance because of self- doubts, and there were several on the 'other side of the continuum', if you know what I mean. But each one...for a little over six hours a day, 180 days of that year...was a marvelous treasure of human virtue and creative vitality!

As a teacher, it is often difficult to follow one's students after they leave to go on to another grade or after their graduation. New students and other activities have a way of demanding one's attention and rightfully so. But, those I have mentioned were several of my first students; and, where are they now, 62 years later?

Priscilla is retired...after many years as a successful teacher. Martha has been in retail management for many years. Ryan is a retired diesel mechanic, and Phyllis is a hospital dietician. Ken is now retired as a master electrician and Melinda has retired from nursing. Rachel has been retired now as a business and banking consultant and Rick has had his own construction business for many years. Laurie is a retired postal worker. And Dylan was in law enforcement. Darlene has her own home-centered business. Dave has been a vegetable farmer since his high school days and Larry has retired from State highway construction. And Mark has retired from teaching and is continuing his work as a coach. Each of these "former students" has their own family and extended family. And sadly, several of them have passed away.

Ah yes, 60-plus years have past since I had the wonderful pleasure of working with my first two classes of fifth graders, and there have been hundreds of talented and creative students, elementary through doctoral level, that followed thereafter. I deeply treasure those years and all the parents, colleagues, and folks I have met along the way. But most of all, I treasure the memory of ALL my students with whom I have worked. Truly, it was a marvelous journey, and it all began that sunny day in September, 1951.