It’s been 20 years since I retired as a public school educator in Holmes County, Ohio. I began teaching fourth grade at Killbuck Elementary School only weeks after the historic and devastating July 4th flood of 1969.
It’s fair to say that neither Killbuck nor I have been the same since. I can’t speak for the town, but for me, that’s a good thing.
I have many fond memories of my time in both West Holmes and East Holmes Local School Districts. I was hired just 10 days before school started. A significant teacher shortage had hit rural areas then. West Holmes still needed 10 more teachers before school started.
I had the two most important requirements needed to teach back then. I had a college degree and a heartbeat. The only education course I was certified to teach was driver education.
I was assigned to a tiny third-floor room in the old high school part of the school complex. I had 28 fourth graders packed into that small space.
I can still name every one of those 28 students. That’s the kind of lasting impression that experience made on me.
Students in the other eight years that I taught at Killbuck were equally enjoyable. I especially appreciated the support of the parents, as well as the camaraderie of the school staff members.
To keep teaching each year, I had to complete at least two college education courses. That meant many night classes and summer school for this teacher. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was what I wanted to do for a living. I loved children, and despite some of the silly state and local requirements, I enjoyed teaching.
I liked it so much in fact that I got my Master of Education degree and became an elementary principal in East Holmes. I also worked out of the central office coordinating the expanding federal programs. But it was the kids I enjoyed the most, plus the opportunity to help teachers teach.
I served as principal of Mt. Hope and Winesburg Elementary Schools for 21 years. I also supervised Wise Elementary for three years at the same time. To complete the triangle of visiting each school each day required driving 21 miles.
For me, the best day of each school year was the first. The students were always excited, scared, and ready to learn. Once they settled into the new routines that soon changed.
I marvel at those precious years, those shinny tiled hallways that bustled with the cheerful sounds of children laughing and learning and quietly chatting. I recall trying to chase teachers out of the buildings long after the school day had ended. Sometimes teachers were still there in the evenings grading papers, displaying student work, or planning for future lessons.
I recall marvelous, heartwarming stories involving children, their parents, teachers, and administrators. There were darker times, too, but far and away, the better memories rule.
It is hard to believe that two decades have evaporated since I retired from the profession I loved with all my heart. I know I wasn’t perfect in executing my responsibilities. I simply tried my best to be an educational leader for the community that I served. After all, the schools belonged to the community, not me.
I can say without hesitation that the 30 years that I spent in the hallowed halls of public instruction in Holmes County were some of the best of my life. But for me, now and forever, school is dismissed.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2019