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Since I have started this column, there are many days I think about all the people I have met and have had a role in my life. With school back in session I’ve felt very nostalgic; mostly …
Since I have started this column, there are many days I think about all the people I have met and have had a role in my life. With school back in session I’ve felt very nostalgic; mostly thinking about the teachers and administrators that worked their hind ends off to make me and so many others the people we are today.
I entered kindergarten in the fall of 1987, and I didn’t know a soul in the building. Marian Mebane (now Graves) was in charge of helping me transition into a model kindergartener. She was sweet and kind, making me feel special and loved. New rules were introduced like raising your hand or standing in line quietly, as were crazy routines of an expected nap time on a little rug.
The transition from kindergarten to first grade was not the best for me. I had grown accustomed to the lifestyle afforded me by Miss Marian. Now I was in a new classroom with new classmates I had not met the previous year. I felt my life was in a tailspin. Mrs. Evelyn Drayer was my assigned teacher and she was not Miss Marian (no offense). Many days I came home upset, but soon the anxiety passed along with the school year.
Second grade was so much better to me. Mrs. Jan Kirk was my teacher, and school made more sense to me. By this time, I knew most of my peers and made a lifelong best friend. School was a breeze and was entertaining enough.
Third grade threw me for a loop because we started this crazy notion of rotating classes and teachers. I just couldn’t believe how I had to leave my comfortable homeroom with Mrs. Keitha Chism to bounce around from room to room. But it was okay, I soon learned to find my comfort zone and appreciated the teaching of skills of Mrs. Joann Hickman. I also learned my multiplication tables.
Fourth and fifth grade are somewhat of a blur, but I do remember having Mrs. Geneva Bledsoe. Lord knows, it didn’t take much for folks to visit her storage closet to get a “little sugar” from her paddle. It was during this two-year period I had the kindest teacher known to humanity, Demetra Perkins.
Mrs. Perkins was my reading teacher. She made reading fun. We played games, learned phonics and met her special friend Betsy. Emily Archer was my homeroom and social studies teacher; while science was with Mrs. Pam Seymour and math with Mrs. Ann Conquest. It wasn’t until a few years I ago that I learned I was in the advanced group (thank God), but the way they treated their students, you would never know if you were in the red bird or a blue bird group.
I was fortunate enough to attend junior high in the old two-story building with its radiators and old creaky stairs. There were quite a few teachers who left a positive impact on my life those three years. One of the most influential was Mrs. Sally Chadwick (now Shymkiw). She was so much like Mrs. Perkins, when you entered her classroom you were loved and treated as a somebody.
This was the time period where we were introduced to real physical education. I had the lovable character Jeff Cursey. How many pep rallies did the man sing Elvis over the PA system? Or tell us to “run like wild dogs.” The man was always good for a laugh.
I can remember seventh grade science with Lynn Watkins, who is now the director of schools. The man had an affinity for reading the newspaper early in the morning; must have been a slow reader or the articles were that good because I never remember him turning the page.
High school was a whole new world and home to some of my fondest memories. I can remember being warned to stay away from Mr. Dewey Chism. He had the bluff on my freshman class, but I later learned he was more bark than bite. After my freshman year we had a new principal, Terry Howell.
Mr. Howell was the junior high principal my eighth grade year, when James Jackson retired. With Chism’s retirement, Lord Howell made the transition. Much like Mr. Chism, Mr. Howell was a no-nonsense administrator, but we knew he cared. I managed to dodge his office for any of those one-on-one counseling sessions throughout my high school career.
I spent one year in the old pod high school. It was during that year I had chorus with the music legend, Charles Pruneau. He spent a lot of time reminding me I was off key, and I probably spent too much time reminding him I was not a soprano. All I wanted to do was sing bass because grown men are supposed to have deep voices.
My sophomore to junior summer I was able to go to Europe for ten days through a school program. I guess I should take the opportunity to finally apologize to McKenzie High School. After my group, it was a miracle Erika Cole ever took another group outside the United States. In our defense, it was Europe and you only live once.
Does anyone remember three quick ones for Friday? If you had Richard Chappell, you remember giving up three claps in rapid succession. They were usually for Friday, the football team, the fans in the stands or Ms. Zia... oops he made you take the last one back. Coach was quick with a joke, but you didn’t fall asleep or you were subjected to a rude awakening from a wooden stick or metal bowl.
Ms. Zia Locke was across the hall from Coach Chappell, and the two had a friendly running feud. She was my English III and IV teacher, and I learned a lot. If you didn’t learn from her then you really weren’t paying attention. Ms. Zia was much like Coach Chappell, you were expected to learn, but they did not want to bore you to death; even though I still cannot break a sentence down properly and writing in the passive voice is still okay with me.
I wasn’t the super-star athlete in high school, but I did letter in three sports. I spent three years on the sidelines during football season, and still lettered despite never putting on a pair of shoulder pads. I took on the role of the team statistician for Bill Koen who was fresh out of retirement from Arkansas. Despite never taking a snap, I absorbed a great deal in those years and was able to coach football for a few years for a team we won’t mention in a story about McKenzie.
I did shine on the golf course for four years as a protégé of Larry Joe Smith. During high school, I was a leader on the team. Coach Smith and the game of golf gave me more than I ever realized. I earned a scholarship to Bethel College thanks to Coach Smith talking to Dr. Jerry Wilcoxson on my behalf. Under Coach Smith, I learned how to coach and treat my players as my boys. I also learned to never take advice on how to find Dollar Golf Course via back roads.
My senior year I decided I needed to stay in shape, so I went out for the tennis team. Much to my surprise, I made the team (only because everyone did). By the end of the season, I was in good shape. I did keep some weight off, but I soon went back to my love of food.
I can say the 13 years in the McKenzie School System affected me greatly. I wanted to have that same impact on others when I went into teaching. Eventually, I learned that times were changing rapidly and the teaching profession was no longer about the students, it was about test scores and perception.
The teachers and administrators I had growing up did their job effectively. You learned more in 180 days in the classroom than you can imagine, if you have the right teacher. I developed a love for learning and consider myself a life-long learner because of these people. Looking at the proverb, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” That phrase stands the test of time for my education from McKenzie.
It is pretty amazing to think about all the people who helped make you the person you are today.
Jason R. Martin
B.S. • M.A.Ed • MLS
Councilman, Ward II
Rotary Dist. 6760, Asst. Governor
WestStar Class of 2019
Executive Chairman, McKenzie 150th Celebration
E: firstname.lastname@example.org P: 731.352.3323
Jason Martin is a life-long resident of McKenzie. He graduated from McKenzie High School in 2000; earned a Bachelor of Science in History from Bethel College in 2004; a Masters in Education from Bethel University in 2009 and a Masters in History and Humanities from Fort Hays State University in 2011.