May 17, 1997 in Washington Voices

Retiring Personalities Valley Schools Are Losing Several Longtime Teachers This Spring To Retirement

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Bill Nuchols’ son had a terrific teacher in fifth grade, a man whom the boy adored.

That teacher made such an impact on Nuchols’ son, that he touched the father, too.

So at age 35, Nuchols left a wide-ranging career that encompassed the Marine Corps, freight trucking, back injuries, insurance adjusting and other jobs. He earned his teaching certificate at Gonzaga University and in 1969 began teaching.

“That’s how I started,” said Nuchols, 63, a few weeks before his retirement.

Since then, Nuchols has taught 28 years in the East Valley School District, always fifth- or sixth-graders.

He, like some of his colleagues, has such rapport with his students that he makes teaching look easy.

His classroom is often noisier than others. On purpose, he said.

“Our neighbors are always saying, ‘What are you doing in there?”’ he said. “I tell them, ‘Believe it or not, it’s work.”’

Creativity and a touch of chaos make good partners, Nuchols has found.

Nuchols is one of several longtime Valley educators who are retiring spring. Three of those retiring teachers Nuchols, who teaches at Skyview Elementary School, Joe Espinoza of University High School and Marguerite Munk of West Valley High School, who together have nearly 100 years of classroom experience - recently talked with the Valley Voice about how their students and their profession have changed. We wondered if we would find signs of big sticks and traditional thinking. Instead, these three veteran educators walk softly - in comfortable shoes - care enormously about their students, and carry a bag of teaching tricks that they’ve collected over the years.

“Teaching always wore me out emotionally,” Nuchols said. “You’re never away from it. You’re always hoping to think of something that will help some boy or girl learn better.”

One of the tools he developed to do just that, he calls “the map game.”

“Do you want to play the map game?” he asks, and the kids erupt in favor of the idea.

Three of the four walls in his classroom bear large multicolored maps, continent by continent. Nothing is printed on the maps; only colors differentiate the nations.

One student picks up a pointer. Two students stand back to the map, until the pointer is ready. “Turn,” he says, and the two competitors whirl around and snap out the name of the state or country.

The student who gets the name fastest goes on to the next continent. The other student sticks with this continent, until he or she wins a round.

“I started this several years ago with just the United States, but I could see that the kids could do more,” Nuchols said. The map game became global, and nowadays Nuchols hears from grateful former students who say they still know every country in the world.

Marguerite Munk is teaching Greek mythology to a class of ninth-graders at West Valley High School. But she trusts that the magic of the stories will capture their attention.

“There’s a magic to mythology, and ninth-graders are still susceptible to it,” said Munk, who has taught 30 years.

Still, she’s not above using some teen vernacular: “What is that expression you guys like to use? He puked his guts out.”

Munk, 59, is retelling the mythic battle between Zeus and his father, Kronos.

“They’re going to kick Kronos’ butt,” predicts one student.

“Yup. That’s exactly what they do,” Munk says.

When her storytelling is over, Munk sets the freshmen to work in threes, researching key characteristics of the major Greek gods.

When one young man discovers Vulcan, a name he’d apparently thought original to the television show “Star Trek,” Munk quietly blows him a kiss.

The ninth-graders share their information with the entire class, and each student will create a notebook that some will keep and find useful in the future.

Munk has come to believe that successful students need to be able to do three things: Work productively by themselves, work cooperatively in a small group and communicate clearly to a large group.

“I even try to reflect that in my grades. Were you able to stand up for your ideas? Were you able to go off by yourself and be productive?”

At University High School, Joe Espinoza teaches Spanish. And other things. How to express an opinion. How to talk about things that matter. All in Spanish, of course.

“We talk about a lot of things, even, you might say, forbidden things. I search their minds. I make them come up with opinions about everything.”

Even good manners are fair game.

He once challenged the boys in his class to bring a handkerchief for extra credit. “Look at your pants. Why does your left pocket have a button and your right one doesn’t? Because you’re supposed to carry your hankie in your right one,” Espinoza said.

Espinoza, 60, is generous in his praise for U-Hi’s students.

“Some of the greatest kids in the world walk in these doors every day.”

After 34 years at U-Hi, Espinoza regrets only that he did not travel more, taking students to see the countries they studied in his class.

And on the eve of his retirement, he wishes that more parents understood they could nearly guarantee the success of their students if only they would work hand in hand with teachers.

“The parents need to know that the teachers are their partners in the adventure, not the enemy.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 photos (1 color)

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHO’S RETIRING These educators will retire this summer from schools in the Spokane Valley:

Central Valley School District Glenn Bailey, principal at Adams Elementary, is leaving the district after 32 years as a teacher and principal. Virginia Baker, who teaches third grade at Chester Elementary, is retiring after 20 years. Jerry Connors, physical education teacher at Central Valley High School. He joined Central Valley 14 years ago. Lance Erie, principal of Evergreen Junior High for five years. Bruce Wendelberg, history teacher at Central Valley High for 28 years. Andrea Kaiserman, fourth-grade teacher at University Elementary, is retiring after 31 years. Midge Malsam, coordinator of school nurses, will retire in August. She has worked 23 years for the district.

East Valley School District Darrell Shane is retiring after 22 years of teaching. He most recently taught science at East Valley Middle School and has been on medical leave this year. Patricia Orebaugh, fourth-grade teacher at Skyview Elementary. She has worked for 29 years in the district as a teacher and librarian. Bernie Toutant is retiring from a 30-year career in the district. She has been a counselor at East Valley Middle School since 1973 and before that taught physical education. Helen Chaney, English teacher at East Valley High School, is retiring after 27 years in the district.

West Valley School District Bob Hickman is retiring from Centennial Middle School, where he teaches sixth grade. He has taught 29 years for the district. Jan Phillips, a fourth-grade teacher at Orchard Center Elementary, began teaching for West Valley in 1962. Bob Lingow, social studies teacher at West Valley High School, will retire after 36 years in the district. Bob Compton, history teacher at Centennial Middle School, came to West Valley in 1982 but has taught for 29 years.

Marny Lombard

This sidebar appeared with the story: WHO’S RETIRING These educators will retire this summer from schools in the Spokane Valley:

Central Valley School District Glenn Bailey, principal at Adams Elementary, is leaving the district after 32 years as a teacher and principal. Virginia Baker, who teaches third grade at Chester Elementary, is retiring after 20 years. Jerry Connors, physical education teacher at Central Valley High School. He joined Central Valley 14 years ago. Lance Erie, principal of Evergreen Junior High for five years. Bruce Wendelberg, history teacher at Central Valley High for 28 years. Andrea Kaiserman, fourth-grade teacher at University Elementary, is retiring after 31 years. Midge Malsam, coordinator of school nurses, will retire in August. She has worked 23 years for the district.

East Valley School District Darrell Shane is retiring after 22 years of teaching. He most recently taught science at East Valley Middle School and has been on medical leave this year. Patricia Orebaugh, fourth-grade teacher at Skyview Elementary. She has worked for 29 years in the district as a teacher and librarian. Bernie Toutant is retiring from a 30-year career in the district. She has been a counselor at East Valley Middle School since 1973 and before that taught physical education. Helen Chaney, English teacher at East Valley High School, is retiring after 27 years in the district.

West Valley School District Bob Hickman is retiring from Centennial Middle School, where he teaches sixth grade. He has taught 29 years for the district. Jan Phillips, a fourth-grade teacher at Orchard Center Elementary, began teaching for West Valley in 1962. Bob Lingow, social studies teacher at West Valley High School, will retire after 36 years in the district. Bob Compton, history teacher at Centennial Middle School, came to West Valley in 1982 but has taught for 29 years.

Marny Lombard


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