Friday, October 31, 2014

Retiring educators, friends impact generations of students

5/14/2014

Educators Linda Fredricks and Donna Zornes formed a friendship when they met in 1977 at Eugene Field Elementary School in Ottawa.

Though the two have worked at several schools during the past four decades, primarily in the Ottawa district, their careers are coming to a close together this spring at Garfield Elementary School, 1213 S. College St., Ottawa.

Educators Linda Fredricks and Donna Zornes formed a friendship when they met in 1977 at Eugene Field Elementary School in Ottawa.

Though the two have worked at several schools during the past four decades, primarily in the Ottawa district, their careers are coming to a close together this spring at Garfield Elementary School, 1213 S. College St., Ottawa.

“I was a student teacher and Donna was the school’s counselor,” Fredricks recalled of their first meeting at Eugene Field, 720 Tremont Ave., Ottawa.

Fredricks and Zornes, who have a combined 78 years of experience in the education profession, are retiring at the end of the 2013-2014 school year as librarian and counselor of Garfield, they said.

The two paused after the fifth grade promotion Tuesday afternoon at Garfield to talk with a few fifth graders and their parents who also had Fredricks and Zornes as instructors when they attended elementary school in Ottawa.

“I grew up here and so did my daughters,” Fredricks said. “It’s been rewarding to teach in my hometown. I feel blessed to have taught a second generation of kids in Ottawa.”

Fredricks and Zornes briefly taught sixth grade in the Garnett school system before securing jobs in Ottawa, they said.

“We both taught sixth grade in Garnett, not at the same time, but in the same school room,” Zornes said.

Zornes, who is retiring after 42 years in education, has spent the past 39 years in the Ottawa school district as a teacher and counselor at Garfield, Eugene Field and Lincoln elementary schools, Ottawa Middle School, and former Hawthorne Elementary School. She was one of two sixth grade teachers who participated in the sixth grade pilot program in 1981 — an initiative to move sixth graders from the district’s elementary schools to the middle school, she said.

The 1981 program moved two, 20-student sixth grade classes to the middle school to see how the transition would work before moving the entire grade to the middle school the next year, Zornes said.

“That was one of my favorite years as a teacher,” Zornes said of being selected to participate in the pilot program.

Zornes has spent the past 29 years as a counselor in the Ottawa school district, providing classroom guidance to students across the school spectrum, she said.

“It’s been fun to watch the students progress from kindergartners through fifth graders,” Zornes said.

Some of the topics she touches on during her classroom guidance sessions include anger management, conflict resolution, character building and friendships.

Fredricks has experienced a number of highlights throughout her career as a teacher and librarian. She is retiring after 36 years in education, She has served as a librarian at all of the school district’s elementary schools, including the now-closed Hawthorne and Eisenhower schools, she said.

In 1985, her fourth grade class at Garfield was one of the top prize winners in a “Know Your Presidents” nationwide contest. As its contest prize, the class took a field trip to former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s library in Abilene, Kansas, and met then-Gov. John W. Carlin, Fredricks said.

One of Fredricks’ fourth-grade students, Brandy Nichols, once told her he saw a helicopter fly by one day when he was looking out the classroom window and said he would be piloting a helicopter some day, Fredricks said.

Fast forward several years and Nichols, a member of the U.S. Army National Guard, landed his Blackhawk on the playground behind Garfield Elementary School, Fredricks said, to give students a look at the military helicopter.

It was a good lesson for students to show that with hard work they could make their dreams come true, Fredricks said.

More recently, Fredricks received a Fulbright grant in 2006 to visit schools in Japan.

Zornes and Fredricks said they enjoyed their experiences working in the Ottawa school district.

“My philosophy in working with the students has always been to encourage them to be the best person they are capable of being,” Zornes said.

Other retiring Ottawa school district teachers and staff members are

• J.D. Horsch, counselor, Ottawa Middle School, 35 years.

• Gloria Kruse, librarian, OMS, 31 years.

• Pattie Wadkins, secretary, Eugene Field, 28 years.

• Vickie Hall, fourth grade teacher, Lincoln, 19 years.

• Cathy Naden, interrelated teacher, The Achievement Program, 11 years.

• Becky Nevergold, Communities in Schools of Ottawa executive director, nine years.

• Bob Fluke, math teacher, OMS, seven years.

• Elonda Hogue, fourth-grade teacher, Eugene Field, seven years.

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