Three North Ridge Middle School teachers say during their lengthy careers in education, the introduction of technology in the classroom was the biggest change for teachers and students alike.
Sixth-grade language arts teacher Connie Faith, seventh-grade and seventh-grade AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) mathematics teacher John Henkelman and eighth-grade teacher Joan Williams all retired last month from North Ridge.
“A lot of things have changed during my 18 years at North Ridge,” Faith said. “One change, especially for teachers, is the use of technology. All of this is good for the students but, for some teachers, it was a hard transition.
“Once I got used to using it in the classroom, I do enjoy it a lot,” she added.
Henkelman observed that “in my 40 years of teaching, the cycle of education has turned three times.
“While the education wheel always seems to return to the same concerns over the years, technology has broken into the cycle since the 1980s. Education is now seated in technology,” he said.
“Technology has brought more opportunities to students,” he said, adding, “It has placed a greater emphasis on math and the sciences for future professions. A reduced education, perpetually, has reduced the number of non-technological job offerings.”
Williams said she sees technology as a benefit to teachers.
“Technology has greatly improved the grade book process for recordkeeping,” she said.
Williams noted she has seen other changes during her career also.
“Girls are allowed in higher level math and science classes. It wasn’t like that when I began teaching,” she said. “Also, teacher responsibilities, instructional methods and student expectations have drastically changed.”
Faith added some changes she has seen as well.
“One is that parent involvement is not as strong,” she said. “It is harder for parents now, especially when both have to work, and sometimes grandparents are raising the children.
“Teaching has always been a hard profession, but I feel over the years we have been asked to accomplish more in the classroom and are asked on a daily basis to be more than just a teacher,” Faith said. “We wear many hats in order for our students to succeed.”
As for favorite memories, the North Ridge teachers had quite a few.
“I guess I have a lot of favorite memories, but I do remember having a student that really did not enjoy reading. A big part of what I teach is reading and the Accelerated Reader program,” Faith said.
“I kept telling all the students how important it is to read, and then one day when the students were passing to their next class, this certain young man was actually reading his Accelerated Reader book while walking in the hallway,” she said.
“It made me feel good to think that in some small way he did start to enjoy reading.”
Henkelman said it was especially rewarding when a student would have an “aha moment.”
“My favorite memory is that of the face and expression of any student who has had that ‘I got it!’ moment,” he said.
“The epiphany evidenced when the realization of the ability to simply read and understand a passage in grade one, or how to utilize a mathematical concept has just dawned in grade seven,” he said. “The ‘aha!’ expression is worth all the effort invested.”
Williams said she has “a lot of good memories.”
“I guess the best memory was running into a former student who is now an adult. The former student said she had made some bad choices and run into some problems in life,” she said.
“As the bad times came, she remembered how I always encouraged her, she said. I did not give up on her and because I did not give up on her, she decided not to give up on herself and had turned her life around,” she said.
Williams added that North Ridge and the Danville school district put student achievement first.
“The focus in District 118 is to facilitate the student in the process of becoming a lifelong learner,” she said. “Student progress and achievement are top priority. Every effort is given to make learning a positive experience for the individual student.
“I have enjoyed being a part of a district as well as an educational team who puts student success first and foremost in everything they do,” she said.
As for how they plan to spend their retirement, Faith said she will be visiting her grandchildren and traveling; Henkelman also plans to travel and scuba dive; and Williams said she will spend time with her five grandchildren.
Also retiring from North Ridge last month was secretary Paula Brown, a 19-year district employee.
Position: Sixth-grade language arts teacher at North Ridge Middle School
Education: Graduate of Sutherland High School, Sutherland, Neb., and University of Nebraska at Kearney, Neb. Experience: Eighteen years teaching sixth-grade
language arts at North Ridge Middle School, and was a substitute teacher for District 118 for five years before teaching at North Ridge
Position: Eighth-grade teacher at North Ridge Middle School
Education: Graduate of Southeast High School, Springfield; bachelor’s degree from Sangamon State University, Springfield; and master’s degree from Eastern Illinois University, Charleston. Experience: Eleven years with District 118 at South View and North Ridge middle schools; and 24 years with Springfield School District 186
Position: Seventh-grade and seventh-grade AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) mathematics teacher at North Ridge Middle School
Education: Graduate of St. Patrick’s Grade School and Schlarman High School with the Class of 1970; associate degree in science from Danville Junior College;
bachelor of science degree in education from Eastern Illinois University, Charleston; master’s degree in mathematics and math education from Illinois State University, Normal; and postgraduate work both in Illinois and in England Experience: Thirty-five years with District 118 at North Ridge Middle School and East Park and Northeast elementary schools, and four years at St. Mary’s in Westville. Also, student taught and substitute taught at Daniel Grade School and EIU’s Buzzard Laboratory School, taught technological resources at Danville Area Community College and conversational English for the Illinois Migrant Council’s adult education program in Hoopeston