Retirement club

Ashley Smith · Wednesday, May 10, 2017
West Liberty Middle School will bid farewell to four retiring teachers at the close of the 2016-2017 school year, Karen Morrison, Carolyn Probst, Rich Hambright and Marilyn Rasmussen.

Karen Morrison began her teaching career in 1974 at Arcadia-Vail Parochial Schools before coming to West Liberty Middle School in 1979 to teach sixth grade language arts.

Morrison, now a seventh-grade math teacher, has seen the West Liberty community undergo quite a few changes since she entered the district.

“When I first began teaching, West Liberty was a middle class, rural community,” said Morrison.

She reflected that over the years, the community has experienced growth and diversity, and now many different kinds of families call the city of West Liberty “home.”

“Some children come from single-parent homes or homes where both parents work,” said Morrison. “Students in the middle school have more responsibilities than they had when I first began teaching here.”

According to Morrison, developments in technology have significantly enhanced students’ education, and she will miss watching her students learn and discover new ideas.

“My goal was always to have students become life-long learners,” she said.

In her retirement, Morrison looks forward to spending time with family and friends. She will pursue interests in travel, literature, film and exercise. A life-long learner herself, Morrison said she may even return to sub in the district occasionally.

Sixth grade science teacher Carolyn Probst has spent 33 years teaching in the West Liberty school district.

“My teaching career began at Nichols School, starting with the 1984-85 school year,” said Probst. She has taught a variety of grade levels and subjects since that time.

“I taught there until the district closed that building in May of 1987; that is when I transferred to fourth grade,” she said. Probst also taught fifth grade subjects in language arts, reading, math and social studies, before eventually reaching her current assignment in sixth grade science.

According to Probst, public education runs in her family.

“I come from a long history of educators,” she said. “My mother retired from 41 years of teaching, her last year being my first. My grandmother and two aunts were also teachers.”

“Being a teacher is who I am,” said Probst. “I have always enjoyed the challenge of finding strategies that make learning meaningful for students.”

Probst reflected on the dramatic progress that has taken place in schools since the beginning of her teaching career.

“If we needed to find a book in the library, we used the card catalog,” she said. “For more current information, we tackled the Reader's Guide and hoped the magazine we needed was there somewhere.”

Teachers shared a single telephone in the workroom, she said, and chalk boards (not smart boards) adorned classroom walls. Before the days of Wikipedia, a set of encyclopedias could be found on the shelves of every classroom. Papers, she said, were typed using a typewriter.

“No one had a computer, no one!” Probst exclaimed. “My, how things have changed.”

Although she is retiring from her job as an educator, Probst said she will stay busy.

“My husband farms and we have a cow/calf operation and a retail meat business,” she said. She will also enjoy gardening, sewing, and canning, as well as spending time with her one-year-old granddaughter.

“There are lots of projects waiting for me to have time for them,” she said.

Rich Hambright will also be retiring from the sixth grade team this year. He spent a year teaching in Osceola, IA before coming to West Liberty in 1983 as a fourth-grade teacher. At that time, said Hambright, the fourth grade was taught at its own building in the nearby town of Nichols.

“In 1987, when the Nichols building closed, I switched to sixth grade math,” said Hambright. “I have been there ever since.”

Like Morrison, Hambright has seen the city of West Liberty become more diverse.

“It’s always been rich in cultural diversity, but I think it’s more noticeable today,” he said. According to Hambright, however, today’s students are surprisingly similar to students of thirty years ago.

“As far as students being different,” he said, “I’m not sure they really are that much different. It’s the world that has changed, and they are merely adapting to the changes.”

In retirement, Hambright looks forward to having time to enjoy hobbies.

“I’ve done painting and some very small remodeling projects in the past summers, and I hope to do more of that,” he said. “Maybe start a new career,” he joked.

All joking aside, Hambright said he will dearly miss the staff, administration and students of West Liberty Middle School.

“I will miss being a part of something very special such as the WLCSD,” he said. “Something that’s been a huge part of my life for 34 years.”

Eighth-grade math teacher Marilyn Rasmussen, like her colleagues, said she will also miss her students and coworkers.

“The middle school is like a second family to me, and I will miss them dearly,” she said.

Rasmussen spent eight years as a teacher in the Linn-Mar district before staying at home to raise her children. She began her career at West Liberty in 1994, and since then has taught subjects in reading, social studies and math to seventh and eighth grade students.

Like Probst, Rasmussen cites technological advances as one of the biggest changes she has experienced during her career in education.

“At my first position, we had three plug-in calculators,” she said. “Now, everything is tech-oriented. The academics have also become more rigorous.”

Public education in Iowa is valued, said Rasmussen, and her three children flourished in public school.

“We serve all students, and help them to achieve their potential,” she said.

Rasmussen will continue to work a second job in her retirement, but looks forward to relaxing with gardening, travel, and time spent with family and friends.

As historian Henry Brooks Adams once wrote, “A teacher affects eternity.” This year’s list of retiring middle school educators has left a legacy to be carried on by a generation of West Liberty graduates, and we thank them for their service to public education.
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