For Thierolf, teaching and parenting are similar tasks

Already a devoted husband and father, it’s no wonder Marion High School’s Grant Thierolf has earned the respect and admiration of this year’s senior class.

Thierolf, who teaches U.S. history, AP U.S. history, sociology, psychology and economics, was recently selected in an informal poll of MHS seniors as the teacher who provided the most positive leadership in their 13-year academic careers.

Thierolf and wife Deanna, a junior high school math and language arts teacher at Marion, are parents of three children: Matt (14), Connor (11) and Kaelyn (8).

For Thierolf, whose marriage enters its 18th year, parenting and teaching go hand-in-hand.

“It’s exactly the same as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I think you have three or four steadfast rules that you’re not going to change and you’re going to be unequivocal about, and the rest is negotiable.”

Thierolf, who also coaches football and track, didn’t realize immediately that he would find his career in education.

“I started out at KU as a pre-law major and just couldn’t see myself sitting at a desk and not working with kids,” Thierolf said.

Not unlike today’s students at MHS, Thierolf had influential teachers while growing up in Mitchell County.

“I think back to all the teachers I had at Beloit in elementary, junior high and high school-I had some great teachers who really cared about kids,” he said. “I think my third-grade teacher was probably the teacher who showed me how much fun teaching could be.

“I don’t know if she really knows how important she was to me and everybody she taught,” he added. “Her name is Kate Kindscher and she’s just a wonderful lady.”

For Thierolf, each day is more like an adventure than a job.

“I haven’t been to work yet,” he said. “I consider myself in grade 40 because I’ve never had to work a day in my life. It’s been fulfilling.

“This is the only thing I’ve ever done,” he said, laughing. “I have no skills. I can’t build anything, I can’t do anything….”

Thierolf said having his name mentioned on more ballots than other teachers is more an endorsement to the Marion staff than to himself.

“It really makes me feel good to be selected for this, but I have to admit my teaching style is a combination of things I’ve taken from other teachers here at Marion,” he said. “We’re blessed with a very good faculty that cares about one another and gets along with one another.

“It’s just enjoyable to go to school and to class every day.”

Thierolf was a student teacher at Baldwin, then taught at Garnett for 41/2 years. This year is his 17th year at Marion.

“First and foremost, I’ve stayed at Marion this long because we have great kids,” he said. “Every school has it’s share of knuckle-headed kids, but even those kids are good kids here, and I use that term loosely.

“We’ve had some kids who were good football players and some who were good citizens, but they just had enough orneriness in them that they were fun to be around.”

Patience, Thierolf said, is the most important trait a teacher can have.

“Just having the knowledge that you’re not going to reach every kid every day and you may not reach them every month-you may not reach them every year. But if you’re patient and treat them fairly, they’ll come around. They’ll understand that and work for you.”

Treating each student fairly is also important, he added.

“You have to treat all kids fairly, but you don’t treat them all the same,” he said. “Some kids need more than others.

“If a student hasn’t missed an assignment all nine weeks and then they’re late with one, I tell them to turn it in when they get it done,” he said. “But if they choose to continually turn assignments in late and come to class late, you just have to draw the line and make it the student’s decision.

“Whatever happens, make it the kid’s decision.”

For the most part, Thierolf said teaching hasn’t changed much in his 22-year career.

“There’s more paperwork, but basically the kids are the same. I think that’s one of the lures of a small town because, for the most part, the parents are the same as well.

“I think kids, a lot of times, will take on the attitude of their parents, and if parents approach education with a positive attitude, those kids will do that as well.”

While passing on subject matter is the most important job of a teacher, Thierolf said one of the most satisfying benefits is the socialization he enjoys with his students and former students.

“One of the best things about being a teacher and coach is getting to know the kids and becoming friends with them after they graduate from high school,” he said. “When kids come back after they graduate and stop by the house or send me an e-mail just to keep in touch, that’s a special feeling.”

Thierolf said he’d recommend a teaching career to his current students.

“It isn’t for everyone but there’s a need for teachers,” he said. “My mother-in-law, who’s a career educator, calls it a ministry and I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

“It’s a great profession, but you have to like kids and you have to like staying young,” he added. “I can pretty much hang with the kids and the music they listen to today.”

An added benefit of teaching, said Thierolf, is the pace at which day-to-day events take place.

“I can basically work at my own pace and spend as much time as I can with my own kids,” he said. “I can get them involved in a lot of things we do at school. I like having a profession where I don’t have to travel much or have too many meetings that take me away from family time. There’s a lot of flexibility in teaching.”

Whether a student is able to succeed or not, he said, is often a result of that student’s willingness to work toward that goal.

“I think the reality is that most teachers really care about kids and care about them succeeding,” he said. “It can become personal when a student doesn’t succeed, but I really think that’s a choice of that kid.

“I may be naive and I’m certainly biased, but I think the faculty at Marion has really worked hard to make sure every kid has a chance to be the best they can be,” he added. “The worst part is that some kids choose not to succeed-but that’s their choice.”

Thierolf said it’s often sad to see the seniors stroll across the stage to receive their diploma, but it’s a good feeling as well.

“There are some kids you’re really sad to see go because they’re good kids, but there are also kids that you wish they would have graduated at the semester,” he said with a laugh.

“Every class has it’s own personality, but we’ve had very good kids at Marion.

“I think this class of seniors will be really successful at whatever they choose to do.”

Also recognized….

While Grant Thierolf received the most votes on our informal poll, numerous other teachers were nominated. Here is the list, in alphabetical order, along with a comment regarding each teacher:

Michelle Adkins.”I think she is a wonderful teacher and makes learning fun. She’s influenced me a lot in what will make me happy in the future.”

Mrs. Bandre. “Her classroom didn’t feel or look like a school room. Normally it had a warm environment that made everyone welcome. She always helped every student with their specific needs.”

Ginger Becker. “Even on the worst days, Mrs. Becker could make you smile. She had the most creative way of teaching us. She always found a way to make even the most boring assignment, fun.

Diana Costello.”She taught me to always try and be in a good mood no matter what the situation is and she also has cool puns.”

Bill Darrow. “He was always very patient with us and always willing to help whenever we needed it. He treated us like students but also like people-with respect.”

Mr. Dickinson: “He showed me how to work in a group and taught me a lot about Colonial America. He was only here for one year. I don’t know if he had a better offer or if my class scared him off. He had a special way of teaching and I will never forget what he taught me about school work and life in general.”

Mary Griffith. “She was willing to talk to the students about why things are as they are. Her experience in literature, speech and drama adds a local flavor and created a class that is memorable and one of the most useful a person can have.”

Mary Jeffrey. “She always motivated me and always made me get my work done. She did her best to get me caught up with the other students.”

Janet Killough. “She has been an inspiration to me because she’s a great teacher and great friend. She made learning fun.”

Mark Meyer. “He really got me involved in what I want to do in my future. He’s given me lots of opportunities.”

Rex Ostmeyer. “I learned a lot from him. He’s helped me out as a human being.”

Bruce Rhodes. “He’s very nice and he’ll go out of his way to help me. He was always there whenever I needed help.”

Kelly Robson. “He always made class fun and enjoyable.”

Roger Schwab. “Classes were very useful and action-packed.”

Judi Stewart. “Her strong morals and hard work ethic combine together to make her one of the finest teachers I know. But no matter how much the students admire her, it can’t match how much she loves her students.For a child to succeed in their work, they must have good teachers and Mrs. Stewart is certainly one of the best.”

Jim Versch. “Not only have I learned a great deal in his classes, he has also taught the life lessons we should all carry from Marion High School. He taught me to put my best foot forward and give 110 percent every time. Because of him, I have decided to go to KU and follow my dream.”

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