ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
Anna Marie Wiebe has come to recognize that change-whether planned or unplanned-helps to foster personal and professional growth.
“Change can be a good thing,” Wiebe said. “At the time, you don’t think it’s going to work out, but it does in most respects.”
This spring Wiebe has again embraced change, retiring after 24 years with Unified School District 410. During her tenure, Wiebe taught several grade levels, each requiring different approaches.
“As a teacher, you’ve got to be flexible,” she said.
In 1980, Superintendent Robert C. Brown hired her to teach fourth grade at Hillsboro Elementary School.
“There were a lot of changes when (Brown) came,” Wiebe said. “But I came into it, not knowing any different.”
After 11 years, Brown moved her from fourth grade to fifth grade.
“He had to move me,” she said. “I think enrollment had gone down in a certain grade.”
Initially, Wiebe, who earned her education from Tabor College in 1974, viewed the prospect of changing teaching assignments as difficult.
“I think the main difference was that you expect more out of fifth graders-more homework, more accountability on there own-than fourth graders,” she said.
But Wiebe managed to make the needed adjustments.
“I survived and enjoyed it,” she said about her first year teaching fifth graders.
Most recently, Wiebe taught children in kindergarten through grade five under Title 1, a federally subsidized program based on the number of free and reduced lunches in the district.
In that position, Wiebe’s goal was to keep children at grade level in math and reading.
“I feel like we did that,” she said.
Under Title 1, Wiebe and paraeducators Sharon Jost, Becky Lindsay and Sara Graham serviced 40 to 50 kindergarten through fifth-grade students in math and reading.
“We really enjoyed working with smaller groups of children who could benefit from receiving math and reading tutoring,” Wiebe said.
As a Title 1 instructor, one of her favorite teaching tools has been STAR-an acronym for “Strategies That Teach Accelerated Reading”-a program based on Reading Recovery, an early intervention program.
For the past four years, Wiebe and Jost used STAR to teach strategies for learning to read to children primarily in first and second grades.
“It was very successful,” she said. “We kept kids (reading) at grade level.”
Identifying particular strategies gives students skills they can use for a lifetime.
“We’d teach children to blend through the sounds…and to look for chunks of words,” she said. “We also incorporated spelling and writing.”
The program also emphasized recognizing how a word fit in the context to help discern its meaning.
“They need to understand what they’re reading,” Wiebe said. “That’s why I just loved this program. It used everything for reading-not just the phonics, but also the comprehension.”
She said she adapted the program for different students, depending on their needs.
Children would start the program in October, and finish up in January or February, “depending how fast the child progressed,” Wiebe said.
This past year, one child’s reading skills increased by several grade levels.
Over the years, Wiebe has come to recognize the value of early intervention with children.
“We used to have to wait until the children were in the third grade before we would have them tested (to identify a need),” she said. “Sometimes that’s too late. I think the earlier, the better.”
As a career educator, Wiebe’s passion to see children succeed has kept her motivated in the classroom.
“I wanted these kids to grow up to be healthy, productive, caring adults, and have a good self-esteem and a positive outlook for their future,” she said. “You just hope you instill in them a good work ethic.
“I’m sorry to say, you can’t reach every child-you do your best,” she added.
Wiebe’s retirement has opened the door for Michele Goldsby to take over the Title 1 position.
“She will do well,” Wiebe said.
The changes brought on by Wiebe’s decision to accept early retirement will again provide opportunities for different experiences.
“I have things I want to do-I will miss the kids. I thoroughly enjoyed working with first graders,” she said. “Teaching them to read was such a rewarding experience-to see their progression.”
In the near future, Wiebe and husband Clark plan to travel.
“We were both so tied down with the farm-he was tied down in the summer when I was off, and during the winter when he was more free, I wasn’t,” she said.
Their family includes two grown children and five granddaughters. Daughter Janelle and family live in Idaho. Her son, Layne, and family live in Kansas City.
Wiebe plans to assist her husband with his woodworking business-doing refinishing work.
“I’ve done a lot of refinishing projects before he had the shop,” she said.
She also plans to make time for volunteer work.
“I’ll just have to see.”