Our Turn: Retired teachers teaching
By Emily Schramke
NCSS 8th grade student.
How can a teacher who retired before I was even born help me be a better learner in the 21st century? Last week my fellow students and I sought that answer as Mr. Kemmeter and seven other teachers visited our school and shared some of their wisdom with us. We invited them in as part of our first project that examined some of the history of local education.
The eight teachers who visited us were Tom Doyle, Joe Beliveau, Mike Wiernasz, Amy Adams, Iris Plamann, Joan Belongia, Norma Christiansen and Don Kemmeter. All of these teachers are members of the Wisconsin Retired Teachers Association and have all taught in the School District of Rhinelander.
Our entire school met the full panel of teachers before they split up and spent the rest of the morning in a single room. It was in each individual classroom that the retired teachers shared advice, and other valuable information. All of the teachers shared stories about their careers, how schools have changed over the years, and some insight about what it was like to be a teacher decades ago. The two teachers who visited my advisory where Mr. Kemmeter and Ms. Belongia.
Mr. Kemmeter was a high school biology teacher at Rhinelander High School and was known for starting the Forestry & Camping Club (FCC). He taught for 31 years, and was known for being connected with many students over the years, including those who didn’t always do well in school. He was hired by Ced Vig and his first year of teaching was also the first year that RHS opened in it’s current building. He shared stories of taffy pull fundraisers, winter camping trips and classroom discipline. My own teacher, Mr. Losch, was one of his students. To many he is known as “Doc” Kemmeter, a nickname he picked up early in his career because he was so good at answering student questions about human anatomy.
Ms. Belongia is a retired teacher who taught in the Northwoods area for many years, teaching a variety of grades, she specialized in English, reading and social studies. This also makes sense that a person with her background would go on to own and operate Brown Street Books for a number of years. Most of her years in the school district were at James Williams Middle School but she also taught in the elementary schools too. Mrs. Belongia told us stories from her own years as a student in one and two room school houses near Sayner. The teachers who taught in a one room schoolhouse had to teach lessons in 10 minute increments and the students in upper grades were responsible for helping the students in younger grades.
As a student I found this opportunity useful to gain insight about local history. But the methods for education and rules about schools have changed tremendously, especially with programs put into place like, Act 10, and No Child Left Behind. Over the years schools have gotten more complex with the lessons and include more technology. Ms. Belongia praised the set up in our school telling us it was a more evolved form of the Individualized Guided Education (IGE) school she began her career at in Gleason in the 1970’s.
The students and advisors at NCSS would like to publicly thank the eight retired teachers who took time out of their days to spend the morning with us and give us their wisdom, experiences, and stories. We were privileged to be in their presence.
Our Turn is written for the Star Journal by students and staff of Northwoods Community Secondary School in Rhinelander.