Sunday, May 31, 2015

Curacao Day 2

Day 2 of the great family vacation went well.  It is absolutely beautiful here.   The only problem is the wind is bad and the water is a bit cold and I don't like cold water.   But that doesn't take anything away from the experience.

The villa that we are staying in is absolutely incredible.   I have my own room and my own bathroom.   We even have our own swimming pool.  We are very close to Jan Thiel beach--within walking distance.  

I have taken several pictures, but we have had some internet/cell issues so I can't get them all downloaded to put on my blog.   I will at some point in time.......

We relaxed most of the day today.  Then we went into the downtown area.   It was a bit dead as all of the shops were closed.  However, had a great late lunch/early dinner overlooking the Caribbean and it was absolutely beautiful!!!

After dinner, we went to the local beach.  I "tried" to get into the water, but it was a bit too cold for me.   It has just been nice to spend time with my kids and relax and not think about things that I usually worry about!!  And I am still continuing to write my 43 day memoirs, etc.   

Tomorrow will be a busy day!!!!!!  Looking forward to new adventures in my "old age."


Thirty Days--Part 2

Yesterday I received this message from a teacher and dear friend.  I am posting it without some of the names, etc.   This message meant the world to me......

First of all.... Wow! There are so many of us loving your blog! It is such a good thing to remember all the positive things that happened in education when our kids were growing up. Thank you for bringing back the positive. It is inspiring to remember, as educators we made a difference, and at least for me, because of you, we had fun doing it. I truly was SO blessed to have you as my principal. You have made such a difference in so many lives Sheila. You always looked for the good in kids, you loved the sometimes unloveable, and yet when needed you could show "tough" love to those kids, and their families, when they needed it. As an administrator, you ALWAYS had our backs. There were times when we made mistakes, but you would address that appropriately, and stand up for us. Like kids there were times we needed that tough love as well.....remember when we had to apologize to the principal hosting a grade level meeting...oh gosh...who was it?...why am I so terrible with names?... for talking during the meeting? I had to take her flowers from our team. Eek you were not happy, but you didn't hold it against us...and none of us sat next to "blank" again 😇! 

You loved our personal kids, and I will NEVER forget how special and important you made them feel. My only regret is that "my other son"  didn't to experience that. I hope you know that I probably wouldn't have gone back to teaching, but did, because you gave me a chance. I'd been out of teaching for so long, I wasn't even sure I could still do it! But how I LOVED my students. They were really challenging!.....remember "student"? Everyday at lunch he ran away from my IA. Good thing she could keep up with him! 

You had such a great staff of kind caring people, from the support staff, to the certified staff, to everyone in the office...what an amazing group you amassed. I felt very lucky to be a part of it. So thank you again for bringing back the positive. Thank you for sharing your stories, and thank you for making a difference....because in the end "the important thing is you made a difference in lives of countless children" even if they were grown up children!! Love you Sheila! And the first halo tells you I STILL haven't figured out technology or what the hell I'm doing!!

Thirty Days.........Patterson and Unbelievable Growth!

During the nine years I taught at Patterson, Gilbert was starting to really grow.  One year we would have over 1000 kids and every space was taken.    Over the course of those years, new schools were built and our population would be split for a time until new subdivisions were built and our numbers would go up again.  Because of this, many teachers were hired and then many were transferred to the new school being built.

I don't think I will be able to remember exactly what the dates were.  I also hope I have to correct order!   When Patterson opened, it took students from Greenfield.   The next school that was built that took students from Patterson was Neely, followed a few years later by Pioneer, then Houston.  It split a few more times, but this was after I finished my tenure there.  

This was the beginning of amazing growth in Gilbert.   At one point, it was not only the fastest growing school district in Arizona, but in the nation.

I was fortunate during that time to have an incredible superintendent, Wally Delecki.  He was our superintendent for over 20 years.   Not only was he an incredible administrator, he is a great guy.   I mentioned that Leona Shreve was my dear friend and mentor and I feel the same way about Wally.   I learned so much from both of them over the years that has served me well.   I thank them for all that they did for me and still do!   I was very fortunate to have these two people who helped mold me as an educator and a person!!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Caribbean Vacation Starts!

Over the past five years, I have been on several trips for both business and pleasure.   I have been to San Francisco several times to visit Patrick.   I have also just gotten away for the weekends several times with short "staycations."    This past fall, Patrick suggested that we go to the Caribbean this summer.  He took me to Ireland in 2008 and it was an incredible trip.   He also went to Europe a couple of times, so he knows how to plan an extended vacation.    So was the beginning of our trip to Curacao!

Kerri, Cameron and I flew from Phoenix to Miami on Friday.   I had originally had tickets for Saturday, but American Airlines kept changing the times.  The final flight was to leave at midnight and get into Miami early in the morning.  I am too old for that so I changed it so we flew in and spent the night in Miami.  We went to the airport around noon for our 5:00 o'clock flight!

Got here about 8:30, got through customs and got our rental car.  It was quite dark and we had no idea where we were going.   Patrick and Cameron were able to find the villa that we are staying in without too much difficulty.   It is absolutely beautiful!  It appears to be very close to the ocean.  We went down to try to get something to eat, but everything was closed.  

I am very excited to do some things that I have never done before--snorkeling, etc.   I have so looked forward to this time away from everything and to spend it with my favorite people in the whole world!!!


Thirty One--My Kids' Teachers

I want to digress a little bit on this post and talk about some of the wonderful people I worked with at Patterson.  I don't want to forget anyone and after I am done with these 43 posts, I am going to go back and make sure I cover as many people as possible.   My kids both went to Patterson while I was teaching there.  Kerri went from kindergarten through sixth grades and Patrick went for kindergarten and first grades.

They were blessed with such wonderful elementary teachers who truly cared about them.   And the greatest part of this is that they were all dear friends of mine, too.

Kerri was fortunate to have Ellen Widmer, Dotty Hall, Betty Lehan, Mary Larson, and Nancy Roberts.   Ellen and Betty have both died.    Ellen was one of my absolute best friends and I miss her to this day!

Patrick had Nancy Proffitt and Jane Campbell.   He later had Judy Cocke, Ellen Widmer, Bill McClelland and Kim Dillon when he moved from Patterson to Houston and then sixth grade at Gilbert El. Sadly, Jane also has died.  Patrick also benefited from our wonderful PE teacher, Kathy Kemp, who taught him to jump rope and had a jump rope team.

So not only was I able to work with incredible people, I got to experience them as a parent, too.   That was truly a blessing!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Thirty Two Days--The Underground Bulletin

I mentioned my lack of artistic and musical ability, but I am a fairly descent writer.   I have always liked to write and I especially like to write about humorous events.  Our wonderful principal, Leona, always published a bulletin with information, etc., in it for our teachers and staff.

So I decided to be creative and start writing an "Underground Bulletin."   I would write about funny things that were happening with teachers and staff at school.  Of course, I embellished a lot of the stories and I used a lot of alliteration.  It was so fun to do and I think the staff really enjoyed it and even being featured in it.   Leona even would give me information about things that were happening so that I could write about it.    I still have many of the copies of it.  I just need to figure out where they are.  Down the road I hope to publish a few of the "articles".

At that time, there were no computers and I had to use dittos to publish the underground bulletin.   What a pain it was!   It is hard to imagine in this day and age of computers, how difficult it was to write and make copies of things!!!!

 A few years before I started doing this, a friend from the Junior High started a District one and it was called "Que Pasa."  I never had anything to do with it, although I was a featured story once.   However to this day, Wally Delecki still "blames" me for it.  I have told him over and over again it wasn't me, but to no avail.

That was my first experience writing about humor.   And that is why I have enjoyed my blog through the years!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thirty Three-Patterson Tales Continued

I have never been known for my musical or artistic abilities, but I have two stories to share about "art" from my days at Patterson.

The first one was that our PTSO sponsored an Art Show and each class was to display their art projects for this fair.  So I was trying to be very creative and figure out what to do since I didn't do a lot of art with my kids because of my "lack of ability" in that particular area.   Gilbert at that time had a lot of farming and so one of my parents offered to bring their tractor and trailer filled with hay bales.   The  parents helped display all of my kids art work on the hay bales and it looked great.    Our class received a special award for "Best Display of Art Work" and even got a trophy.   Did I take a lot of flack for that from the other teachers!!!  Of course, this was all in jest but they knew my limited art ability!

The next one is one of my most favorite stories.   I didn't like to do bulletin boards and my wonderful IA, Pat O., always did them for me.   Each month a teacher was assigned the big bulletin board in the office to decorate.  My month was January so I asked the teacher who had December to please leave the white paper up and the border.   Then I cut out the letters that said:  "FIND THE HIDDEN PICTURES IN THE BLIZZARD!"   That was it.  The best part is that our school secretary said parents would actually sit there and try to find pictures while they were waiting.  I also remember Leona (laughing) telling me that she thought I might only leave it up a couple of days, and not the whole month!!

Needless to say, I NEVER had to do another office bulletin board in all of the years that I was there!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Thirty Four--Patterson Continued

My second year at Patterson, I moved from second to third grade and several of my students stayed with me.  I absolutely loved teaching third grade!  I had the best students and such incredible family support.   I worked with wonderful people.   At some point, I want to mention them, but I am afraid I may forget a few names and I wouldn't want to leave anyone out.

My instructional assistant at Patterson was Pat Ofenloch.   We hit it off immediately and I believe that Pat was instrumental in me becoming a good teacher.   She was an integral part of my classroom community and was always there for me.  She died a few years ago  and I wrote about her when that happened.   She was with me until she retired (from Patterson, to Houston, to Gilbert El).

That year I decided that I would like to take my students on an overnight field trip to Bisbee and Tombstone.  I wanted them to learn the history of early Arizona as well as the science of rocks and minerals.   Leona was very supportive of this, as were the parents.   An elementary teacher had not asked to go on an overnight field trip before, so I had to go before the Governing Board and ask permission.  I was asked many questions about why I wanted to do this and I answered each question.   The Board approved it and there began 10 years of an incredible trip with my classes.

The first year's trip was the end of April.  I will never forget that first trip (or any for that matter).   We spent the first day in Tombstone.   The kids saw the Historama, toured the OK Corral and the Courthouse.   We then drove to Bisbee and spent the night at the Bisbee High School Gym.   Pat O. was with me on every trip and was such a great help.

I had a student for two years by the name of Wendy Aaby.   Wendy's mom told me I could write about her when I contacted her a few days ago.  Wendy was paralyzed from the waist down and her mom trusted me enough to allow her to go on that field trip.   Our school nurse, Mary Sisung, went with us to help out with Wendy (her mom let her go on her own).  I also had the privilege of having a student by the name of Charissa Chafey who was absolutely amazing with Wendy.  She was truly her protector and showed incredible empathy.   At the time, there wasn't much research out there about building classroom community.  I did it without even realizing it because I had amazing students and families. Wendy passed away a few years ago.  I wasn't able to get to her funeral as I was here in Douglas.   Her mom and I keep in touch.   I feel that having Wendy for a student was a huge blessing and I am grateful to her mom for the trust that she put in me!

I remember that it snowed the first day and the kids were so excited to see the snow.  The trip went very well and the kids and adults had a wonderful time and learned a lot.  It was probably one of the best things I ever did as an educator and it evolved into something that lasts even today.   I will write more about that in later posts.  I loved being able to share my roots with my students and their families!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Thirty-Five--Patterson Days!

I was so fortunate that when I got back to Gilbert, I was able to teach at Patterson Elementary School.  I had opened up the year I was in Germany.  My dear friend and mentor, Leona Shreve, was the principal and it was so amazing to be able to work for her.   This was the start of a ten year adventure as a regular classroom teacher.   

I started out the first few days of the year teaching fourth grade.   Gilbert's growth was slow at that time, but new subdivisions were being built.  There weren't enough students for three fourth grades so Leona asked if anyone wanted to move to second grade.  I volunteered to do so.  At the time, I was pregnant with Patrick and primary students got out at 2:00 p.m. and intermediate at 3:00 p.m.   So it was a bit easier for me to have that extra hour.   I only had 11 or 12 children to start the year, but by the end of the school year, I had a full class!

I liked teaching second grade, but knew that I preferred children just a little bit older.   

The Patterson years were amazing!  Leona Shreve was an incredible principal and mentor to me throughout my career.   It was such a blessing that I was able to go to Patterson after that year's leave for many reasons.   I will share some Patterson stories over the next several days.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Thirty-Six More Days--Teaching in Germany

For the past seven posts, I have mostly written about my days teaching special education.  I was able to take a year's leave of absence from Gilbert for the 77-78 school year.   My ex was stationed in Germany in the Army and Kerri and I went over to join him.     At that time (and it still may be the same) the majority of teachers on Army bases were Department of Defense employees who went to different countries to teach.   I applied for a job and the day before school started, I got a call to sub for a teacher who was pregnant.   She was also one of the few teachers who was the wife of a soldier and not a DOD employee.   She taught third grade.   Of course I accepted and started school the very next day without having time to prepare or anything.

The school was at the Army Base in Kitzingen, Germany which is south of Frankfort.   I had only taught special ed so it took a bit to get use to a full class of 30 third graders.  I absolutely loved it!  I had a great class and worked with some wonderful teachers.  

The teacher I was subbing for planned to be out for six weeks.   As the time came for her to be back, I was really feeling down because I was so enjoying it.   I had prepared the kids for her return and then all of a sudden she decided to not come back so I was able to teach the entire year.    

Having lived and gone to school in Douglas and then spending six years in Gilbert, I had worked with a lot of the same people and had many students for more than one year  One of the most interesting things that happened as that during the school year, kids came and went depending on their parents' deployment.  So even though I had 30 kids most of the year, I probably had a total of 45 kids because of  the transfers.   And what I found really interesting is that the kids were so use to this kind of change.   A new student would come in and they would welcome the child and then go about their business.   The same thing would happen when a child left--they said good-bye and that was it.   They were already a part of the military life at that young age!

One particularly memorable event happened one day towards the end of the year.   I had booked the Officer's Club for a class picnic and had everything planned for the kids to barbecue and play games.    We were in the middle of playing a game when an officer came out and asked if the kids could be a bit quieter.  His reason was that they were have a "very important" NATO meeting with General  Patton (General George Patton's son).   I told him very nicely that I would try to keep them quiet, but I couldn't promise.   He went back in and a bit later came out again and asked.   Right behind him was General Patton and he told me that the kids weren't bothering anyone and that they should enjoy themselves!!!!   I liked that.

It was a great year and I knew that when I went back to Gilbert I was going to ask to teach a regular grade level.   If I had not had that opportunity, I would have continued to teach SPED because I liked that, too.

I felt so fortunate to be able to have this experience!  It was a great year.  Although I loved working there, I was glad to get back to Gilbert.   

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Thirty-Seven Days--"The Dirty Daisies"

Still remembering my first years of teaching special education.   As I have said, I was at both Gilbert Elementary and Gilbert Junior during that time.   I had kids from fourth through eighth grades--sometimes self-contained some times just for reading or math.   I worked with some great people who became such good friends.   

The other day, Sue Dunning asked if I remembered the Dirty Daisies---Remember them, I was a "founding flower" of the Dirty Daisy Society!!   It was such a fun time!    One day, several of us heard that some of the male teachers belonged to a secret society called The Red, Red Rose.    It was supposedly a national association and they were not allowed to talk about it.   Well you can imagine how we took off with this information.

Dawn Hughes, Martha Wallace, Kay Benjamin and I decided to start Gilbert's answer to the Red, Red Rose Society, aka as the Dirty Daisies.  So the Dirty Daisy Society was started.  We had bylaws, a slogan and even a t-shirt.  Our slogan was "some seeds sow weeds!"    We expanded our membership and you had to be "voted" in to join.   I can tell you that any female teacher who wanted to be a Dirty Daisy could be one--we weren't that selective.

Later after I became an administrator, several of my admin buddies became "Dirty Daisies"--Connie, Nikki, Jill, Sherryl--just to name a few.  One of the funniest times was when we were at an administrators' picnic and our wonderful Supt, Wally, burned one of our t-shirts!!!

What great times we had during those years!!!  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Thirty-Eight--DHS Graduation

Today I am going to go out of order in my countdown as last night was one of the greatest traditions that I have been able to participate in during my 43 years--DHS Graduation.  It is the custom here in Douglas for the Superintendent to bestow the diplomas on the students.  The graduation is held at the football stadium.  They walk across the stage, I shake their hands and give the diplomas and then we smile for an individual picture.    This is such an honor for me and it means so much.  My signature is also on their diplomas.

We had practice yesterday morning for the graduation ceremony.   One of the nicest things for me is that I have gotten to know many of these students in the past five years.   All of my previous experience has been mostly in elementary school, with those first years also in junior high.   I have absolutely loved getting to know and work with the high school kids and I would have never thought that before.   Plus the Douglas kids are amazing!!  They are so polite and respectful!

One of the traditions is for the faculty to wear gowns and their Master's hoods.  I think this is so great to do.   The Board Members also participate, but they wear suits or dresses.   I believe that it sends a great message for us to wear robes and hoods.

So I was able to give diplomas to almost 300 students.  What an honor it was and how special for me that it was my final "job" to do at the end of my wonderful career in public education.    So many of our students will go on to higher education or the military and will make us proud.  They are our future leaders and I have to say that the kids I know are going to make this world a better place.  What a great evening!!  I am so honored that I was able to participate in the graduation of the DHS Class of 2015!   And what truly touched me were the amount of hugs I got from the graduates!   ONCE A BULLDOG, ALWAYS A BULLDOG!!!!!    

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thirty-Nine Days--Late for School

So many memories..........I have been thinking about my six years of teaching special education at Gilbert Junior and Gilbert Elementary.    At that time, Gilbert was still very small.  Greenfield Elementary opened in 1972 and the growth at that time was slow.   Housing was sporadic with mostly farming.   I always drove east on Elliot Road and there was absolutely nothing out there during that time.  In the winter, there were lots of sheep brought down from northern Arizona and many times they would herd them down Elliot Road.   I remember being stuck in the middle of sheep sometimes.   It was quite exciting!!!!    One particular day, I was taking Kerri to her babysitter's and got stuck for quite a long time in the middle of the sheep.    I am always early and I HATE to be late so when I realized it was getting close to school starting, I became quite nervous.  Of course, there were no cell phones (or at that time--not even pay phones around) to be able to call and say why I was late.   When I finally got out of the middle of the sheep, I tried to drive quickly to leave Kerri and got stuck behind a train!!!   I was late for work that day and wasn't able to call in!    I know this is really hard to imagine now as Gilbert has had such tremendous growth!!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Forty--Teaching in Many Historical Buildings

The walk down "Memory Lane" continues.......  My second through sixth years of teaching were all in special education.   I taught at both Gilbert Elementary and Gilbert Junior High.  Even back then, we had a shortage of subs.  My schedule was a bit weird as I had some kiddos assigned to me all day from the elementary school and then some kids from the junior high that came to me for a certain period.  So there were days when I had to substitute and would have to take "my kids" with me to the class that I subbed in.   In addition, I must have moved classrooms 10 times in five years.  I taught in one of the cottages at Gilbert Elementary for a time.   Then I was in a back room in the library which is now Special Services at the District Office.    I spent a couple of years teaching in the Alamo, which is now the Gilbert Historical Museum.   I even had a classroom in this old, rickety building that had previously been the band room.   They didn't ever remove the different "floors" so I had kids above and below each other!    It was in the current District Office parking lot and that particular time we had a lot of rain.  I would literally be surrounded by water after it rained--kind of like a moat.   And then when it was windy and the door was opened, it would blow out the pilot light on the heater and we would have to evacuate.     What an experience that was!!!!  It has been fun remembering all of these things.  I have been sending myself emails to remind myself to write about certain experiences!!!   This has been great!!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


As I continue to count down the days, it has been fun trying to remember the things that have happened over the years and the experiences that I have had an an educator.   It seems like such a long time ago that I was a teacher--and it was.  It has been great to think about the wonderful memories of those 17 years.    

Yesterday, Martha Wallace replied to my Facebook post and asked if I remembered when we paddled some boys that first year of teaching.  I had thought about it yesterday and then didn't write about it.  It was my first and last experience with paddling (except once when I had to be a witness and I will share that later)!!!  Obviously, times were very different back then.  As I said, I had quite a challenging class that first year with mostly boys who were 14 & 15 years old. I had just graduated from college.  Martha had the bright idea one day when they were particularly naughty that maybe we should paddle them.....   What a disaster!!   If you can paint a picture in your brain of two young teachers having the boys bend over so we could spank them......   It was awful and I knew from then on that it was absolutely something I would never do again.  

Once again, what an experience that first year of teaching was for me!!! I gained such valuable experience!!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Forty-Two--Starting My Career

As I remember this incredible journey that I have had in my career, it takes me back to my first job at Gilbert Junior High School.    When I started back in 1971, there were 11 teachers at GJHS.   I was hired to teach 8th grade special education.   Martha Wallace was hired at the same time to teach 7th grade special education.   We were the only new teachers with a very established faculty.   Gilbert Junior was located in the present District Office.   Believe it or not, there were only about 800 students K-8 at the time.   All of the District schools were in the same area.   Mesquite Junior High was Gilbert High and Gilbert Elementary was Gilbert Elementary.   All of the students ate in the same cafeteria--staggered lunches. 

I did work with an intern that first year who was interning in Counseling from ASU.  Her name was Kay Sevill and she is now Kay Huston.   We are still friends!

I learned so much that first year.   It was a tough group of kids and I wasn't that much older than they were.   I think I got about five years of experience all in one year!!!  I worked with a great faculty who were incredibly supportive of me in my first year as a teacher.    

Special education then looked much different than it does today.   There were no IEP's, not much testing, and kids were just placed.  It wasn't until later in the 70's that "rules" were put into place--which was a good thing.   

I learned that year that no matter what happens, it is extremely important to follow through and do the very best job you can no matter what the circumstances.  That has carried me well through the years and I am so glad to have learned this valuable lesson my first year as a teacher!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Forty-Four Years of Memories!

In forty-three days, I will end my forty-four years as a public school educator (June 30).   Although I have not written much on this blog for quite some time, I am going to try to write something each day of my many wonderful memories of an incredible career.  (Note--somehow I forgot to include my last year when I started these posts so it was actually forty four years.  I figured that out one day about a year later when I was walking.  So I added a post that day to make up for it.   I think that somehow because my last year was a bit stressful, I blocked it out!)

When I started ASU in 1967, I truly didn't know what I wanted to major in.    It seemed at the time that most women majored in either education or nursing.  I don't like blood or vomit, so nursing was never an option!!!   I started out in business, but that wasn't really what I wanted to do.  After trying a couple of other majors, I decided to major in special education.   At the time, it was a double major in special ed and in elementary education.   I was able to graduate in four years despite changing my major a few times.  

I did my student teaching in first grade in the Balsz School District for half a semester and then in special education in the Roosevelt District for the second half of the semester.  Both were incredible experiences.

My first offer was from Gilbert and I signed on the "dotted line" immediately  (more about that later)!  It was to teach 8th grade special education at Gilbert Junior High.

I have often thought about my career and would I have done something else--maybe something like law.   However, I have never one time regretted my decision to become an educator.   I have had an amazing career and I have been blessed to have so many wonderful people who have touched my life in so many ways.   I would not change any part of this incredible journey!!!   

I taught special education for six years and then 11 years in elementary school for a total of 17 years in the classroom.   I spent one year at the District office as the interim Director of Personnel for GPS and then 20 years as the principal of Gilbert Elementary School--the best job in the whole world.  For the last five years, I have been the Superintendent of the Douglas Unified School District.  So I have seen public education at every level.

As these last 43 days wind down, it is bitter sweet.     I am ready to move on to the next phase of my life, but have many mixed emotions because my career has been so important to me and I feel as though I have been able to make a difference.   My dear friend, Wally Delecki, says that when he retired as Superintendent and went to work for NAU that he was recycling.   I love that!!!  One of our consultants told me that when he retired as an assistant superintendent, that he considers himself a "recovering superintendent" and I love this too as it is so true.  So as I look forward to whatever might bring me in the days, weeks and months ahead, I have to think that I will be recycling as a recovering superintendent!!!!

It has been a great ride and I have so many wonderful memories of the fellow educators, children, parents and families who have touched my heart and I hope to share 42 more!!