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Teachers say goodbye to Rock Bridge

[tabs style=”1″][tab title=”Shaunte Branham”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

Biology teacher Shaunte’ Branham will no longer grace the halls as she is evaluating her options for the future. Branham taught B day general biology at RBHS and connected with her students through her dedication.

“I will miss her; she was a great teacher,” sophomore Kayla Hires said. “When I got behind, she came in early in the morning to help me get caught up.”

This tenacity to educate RBHS’s students has shown through to her colleagues in the science department as well, who wish Branham all the best.

“She’s a really hard worker and a good asset to our team,” Biology and Oceanography teacher Kaitlin Rulon said. “I know that she will take that work ethic and her positive attitude wherever seh goes and in whatever she does.”

By Jilly Dos Santos

[/tab] [tab title=”Justin Conyers”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

After teaching at RBHS for a decade, Justin Conyers is leaving to become the head football coach at Battle High School. Conyers, the current teacher for strength training and team sports, believes this is a good time for him to move onto BHS, and he is excited to be part of their coaching staff.
“I am very excited to be the first head football coach at Battle High School,” 1999 Hickman graduate Conyers said. “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, and I couldn’t be happier to have this opportunity in my hometown.”
CPS offered him the job last year, and Conyers said he was eager to take. However, the drawback in his transfer is the strong connection Conyers has developed with RBHS. He said it is tough to leave those on the south side of Columbia.
“I have been at Rock Bridge for almost a decade now, and I am very thankful for getting my career started here,” Conyers said. “ I will miss the relationships that I have built with my colleagues and all of the wonderful traditions that go along with being a Bruin.”
Conyers’ move to BHS also has an effect with his students. Being the RBHS football coach and the defensive coordinator allowed him to build special relationships with students.Conyers said he had an intimate connection with senior West Wilson, a safety for the Bruin football team. Wilson said Conyers is a teacher he will never forget.
“It’s tough letting go of someone who you know so well,” Wilson said. “But, I am very excited for Conyers at the same time because he will get to be the head football coach at Battle.”
Wilson was not the only one influenced by the transfer of Conyers. Sophomore Victor Topouria, one of Conyer’s strength training students, said he was surprised when heard about Conyer’s leave.
“I was looking forward to having him in the coming years,” Topouria said. “But it’s upsetting I won’t get to.”

Read about his decision to change schools here.

By Harsh Singh

[/tab] [tab title=”Amelia Fagiolo”]
Photo by Humera Lodhi
Photo by Humera Lodhi

Transitioning into high school can be difficult for some students. Many students, such as sophomore Emily Vu, rely on their teachers and guidance counselors to help them successfully complete this transition. But Vu’s guidance counselor, Amelia Fagiolo, is one of several teachers who are leaving RBHS to teach at Battle High School next year.

“She makes up the coolest nicknames and is always super friendly whenever I want to talk to her about a schedule change, or about what I want to do with my future,” Vu said. “I’m going to miss her.”

Vu said Fagiolo is one of the teachers who truly enjoys her job. She feels that “Mrs. Fagiolo obviously does” care for her students and her co-workers, and does a good job communicating with all these students.

“She’s definitely going to make everyone feel welcomed because she’s so friendly,” Vu said.” I definitely think with her, their people will open up to the new school a lot faster.”

Along with being adored by many of her students, Fagiolo has had an effect on several of her co-workers as well, with her friendly and open personality. Sophomore guidance counselor Samuel Martin said he had an enjoyable experience working with Fagiolo, and that she has the perfect personality for a guidance counselor.

“I think she understands Rock Bridge culture; she has a gift for connecting with kids,” Martin said. “ I think she has the energy that has been very helpful … for not only our department but for the school in general.”

Besides appreciating Fagiolo’s talent of reaching out to students and making them feel welcome at school, Martin admired her ability to work with a variety of different people and find the best solution to any problem.

“I enjoy working with her, because I think we have different personalities and different strengths that we play off each other well,” Martin said. “I know she can offer her perspective on a situation or a problem that I’m working with that I might not have thought of just by myself, and I appreciate that, because she has a different background experience than I do.”

Fagiolo admits that moving to a new school with new faculty and new students will be difficult and she will miss the loose and relaxed atmosphere RBHS has. Being a 2001 RBHS alumna herself, she is long used to the “Freedom with Responsibility” philosophy. But even though it will be a big change, Fagiolo is optimistic that it will be a good experience for her.

“[I will miss] the whole philosophy here of freedom with responsibility. Not that I’m saying [Battle] won’t have freedoms and that we don’t think our kids are responsible, but that’s not like a foundational culture of the building there like it is here,” Fagiolo said. “So there won’t be kids roaming around the halls in between class, and they can’t leave campus, and that kind of thing.”

Even though Fagiolo will be missed by her students and faculty, Vu is convinced she will be able to continue to help people at BHS and succeed at her job as a guidance counselor there.

“Mrs. Fagiolo is an awesome person,” Vu said. “It’s too bad she’s leaving RB, but Battle is lucky to have her.

By Afsah Khan

[/tab] [tab title=”Ryan Hochgrebe”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

Ryan Hochgrebe began teaching here at the start of this school year as a math teacher and is moving to Fulton, Calif. There, Hochgrebe will be a pastor at a church.

“I’m super bummed about leaving,” Hochgrebe said. “I’m leaving behind some people I really care about and some students I really want to see move on.”

Hochgrebe sees his new position as pastor as both similar and different as his current job as math teacher. In ways, being a teacher has prepared Hochgrebe for being a pastor.

“There’s going to be a big jump there,” Hochgrebe said. “There’s going to be a lot of similarities, as well. I’m going to working with people, like I am now. As for the experiences, I’ll be interacting with people in a different ways, and people will be needing me in different ways. In general, I feel ready though. I actually think this year has prepare me for that.”

As a pastor, Hochgrebe will continue to impact people’s lives, as he did here. At RBHS Hochgrebe worked with students, and while he taught them math, he also encouraged them and believed in them, allowing students to move forward and be successful.

“He [Hochgrebe] has really been the only math teacher who has encouraged me instead of giving up on me,” sophomore Kristina Jones said. “He’s really nice… I’ve never learned more ever, in my entire life.”

Hochgrebe has been beneficial to more than just the students he teaches, as a math teacher, he also spends time helping out in the math tutoring center. In tutoring, he also encourages students and helps them when they are having difficulties.

“I’ve been to math tutoring when he’s in their a few times,” junior Inas Syed said. “He’s always so patient and explains things thoroughly.”

Though Hochgrebe only taught at RBHS for a year, he made an impact on the community in the short time he was here, and he will be missed, by both the students and faculty, just as he, too, will miss them.

“I’ll miss community. I love working with the math department and all the faculty I’ve interacted with has been engaging and encouraging for me. You don’t find that everywhere, a place where you can vent, or get ideas or a place creativity flows,” Hochgrebe said. “ I’m going to go from this big family of students, and teachers, and staff to working by myself, in a ways.

By Humera Lodhi

[/tab] [tab title=”Lisa Holt”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

For 28 years, Lisa Holt has roamed the math wing. She has lived in a world of logarithms, parabolas, quadratics and intercepts for almost the entirety of her professional career.

Since Holt began teaching at RBHS she has seen generations of students and teachers come and go through the doors to her basement classroom as the school has gradually grown to what it is today. The teacher known for her abundance of handouts has from a world of a Xerox machine with a 10 copy capacity to being able to print hundreds of target check and worksheets at a time.

“It was 750 students when I arrived in 1985, when we had assemblies we got out two sets of bleachers and we’d sit by class, sophomores sat on one side, juniors sat on the other side, and seniors sat on the floor,” Holt said. “We really just needed about, I don’t know, maybe 10 or 12 rows of chairs on the floor you know to hold all the seniors, it wasn’t like you filled the whole gym.”

With her extensive knowledge of the field, she has also been the head of the math department, which currently contains 12 other instructors and one mentor, for the past 15 years. But, it being her first year of eligibility, Holt figured this would be a good time to let full-time teaching go.

“Six months ago or so, I let Mr. Maus know I wanted to continue being at Rock Bridge next year ‘cause Audrey, my daughter, will be a senior so I definitely wanted to be around,” Holt said. “But if I could do it in a part time capacity, that would be my preference.”

Having taught her daughter, junior Audrey Holt in Algebra II last year, the two see each other a lot around school. Leaving the year before she graduates would be a difficult choice for the mother and daughter who Audrey said are very close.

“I was actually really happy when she said she was gonna be coming back part time,” Audrey said. “Cause I’d always planned on her retiring next year and like, graduating with me.”

So she won’t be too far away. Next year, instead of teaching multiple blocks of Algebra II Honor’s as she has for this year, Holt will only be teaching one block of an undetermined math subject, and working on a new program called AVID for another.

“There’s a new program coming called AVID… and I’m going to be working with that program as a core leader of that,” she said.

Holt said AVID is a program made to help out students who are taking AP and honors classes, which she will be leading here at RBHS.

Although she’s been here for almost 30 years, Holt plans to stick around for a bit longer to lead more students to a successful future, whether it be in mathematics or otherwise.

“When I was in the math department, she and I were very close,” said Assistant Principal Dr. Jennifer Mast. “And definitely as a teacher, she’s one of our best.”

By Madi Mertz

[/tab] [tab title=”Ashton Honeycutt”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

Ashton Honeycutt, an African American Experience and World Studies teacher, will not be returning to RBHS this fall. Her husband got a veterinary job in Hermann, Mo., so she will follow him there.

“I am going to miss her a lot, she’s been great to work with,” Shawnna Matteson, fellow African American Experience and World Studies teacher said of Honeycutt, “[I am] ot sure what she’ll be up to, but I’m definitely going to miss her a lot because she’s been fabulous to work with.”

Honeycutt plans to find a job working with youth, whether it be teaching, counseling or working with an after school program. She was involved with RBHS beyond teaching by being the sponsor of the Glee Club and a member of the Multicultural Committee.

“My favorite part about RBHS is the supportive environment provided to teachers,” Honeycutt said, “as well as the collaboration among faculty and students.”

While RBHS may not have Honeycutt next year, she has definitely given much to our community and will likely continue to give support to her new community in Herman.

“She expects a lot, and she’s very organized and driven. That has really kept me on my toes as well,” Matteson said. “I think anywhere she ends up, she’s going to be a driving force behind whatever they’re accomplishing.”

By Sophie Whyte

[/tab] [tab title=”Kelli Jacoby”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

The 2012-2013 school year was the first year of full-time teaching for Kelli Jacoby, and it will be her last at RBHS. Jacoby spent the previous year student teaching for RBHS math teacher Bob Borst, and because of her hard work, she was accepted into into the MU Fellowship Program. The program allowed her to work closely with Borst as she taught Integrated Math 3 and Algebra 2 this year, all while working on her master’s degree through the University.

Next year, however, Jacoby will be leaving RBHS behind for the suburbs near St. Louis, Mo.

“I am born and raised in Columbia, so I kind of wanted to move,” Jacoby said. “[My boyfriend’s] job also transferred to St. Louis, so I’ll be following him.”

The desire for new surroundings was a contributing factor in the change, but Jacoby believes that her commitment to family played a more important role. She put her loved ones first and chose to walk toward the unknown in St. Louis, so that while she would be giving up her home, she and her boyfriend would be closer.

“Once you have to start thinking about people besides yourself and a family, it’s hard,” Jacoby said. “I don’t yet [know which school I’m going to teach at next year], which is kind of scary, but I have some interviews set up, so hopefully they work out.”

After having taught at RBHS for the better half of three years, her biggest concern is entering a new teaching environment that conflicts with principles she learned here. To her, RBHS has proven itself as a unique and progressive school, and a hard act to follow.

“I’m actually really nervous about it, because I know how rare Rock Bridge is, and how great the students are,” she said. “I’m kind of scared to step into another school, because I’m so used to this and I love it so much.”

Sophomore Andy Kegly took Integrated Math 3 under Jacoby this year and reflected on how she made the class successful by forming connections with her students.

“She gets on the students’ level. I had a lot of questions in that class, and I always understood it after just a few minutes of talking,” Kegly said. “I knew she was transferring, and I’m going to miss her at Rock Bridge next year.”

While she’ll be unable to recreate the culture of RBHS at her next school, Jacoby hopes that hers can be a classroom that treats students with freedom and respect. She has seen the mature standard students here are held to by their instructors and believes it lets kids rise to the occasion and showcase the best in themselves.

“I don’t know if the school that I’m going to will have that same mindset, but I choose to believe that high school students will make the right decisions, and if they don’t, that can be taken care of,” she said. “Wherever I go, I’ll try to bring that collaboration, and I know that I will treat my students in the way Rock Bridge as a whole treats students.”

So, although her time at RBHS was brief, Jacoby has decided to internalize the lessons learned and to pass them on, regardless of residence. Kegly said that he thought it was the best course of action, and was happy to hear that her RBHS principles would still survive.

“The thing about our school is that it affects teachers as much as it does students,” Kegly said. “I know Ms Jacoby will be able to help a lot of other kids with what she’s learned, so I wish her the best. Even though she won’t be here next year, she’ll still carry on a part of our school that makes it great: the teaching.”

By Jilly Dos Santos

[/tab] [tab title=”Kathryn Kemp”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

On the north side of the school, past the chemistry wing and the journalism room, lie two interconnecting rooms that may seem foreign to most students at RBHS, however are considered home by a group of students.

The academic lab is home to several teachers who serve as learning specialists to students with special needs or need extra help on schoolwork. Students like senior Tasha Brooks can be found in the lab during their AUT, before or after school, or during their free time.

“Right now I just come in here during my AUTs to get help on my health care occupations work and stuff, or just to come in here to help out like what im doing now when Im supposed to be out of school as a senior,” Brooks said. “If someone needs to find me I’ll always tell them that I’ll be in [the academic] lab. This is just like my fun room that I love to be in and I feel at home here.”

However, the academic lab will have a different feel next year with the departure of learning specialist Kathryn Kemp.

After spending her first two years of teaching at RBHS, Kemp will be leaving to be a middle school mathematics teacher in Kansas City. At RBHS, Kemp worked with special needs students in the Academic Lab, the Resource Center, and the testing room where she helps administers and explains tests to students. Although she is eager to advance in her educational career field, she values the time she spent at RBHS and has garnered both memories and teaching moments from her students.

My time at RBHS “ has been very educational …I’ve come to have such good positive relationships with my students. Some of them even kind of treat me like a mom which is very, very rewarding to me,” Kemp said. “But I loved working with the students here, I learned a lot about the students. I’ve learned that if you give your students a lot of care and show them that they’re important to you, their education and success is very important to you then they work very very hard.”

In the past, Kemp worked for eight years in another school district. Her time as a teacher, as well as the the experiences she has had with her students has provided her with new teaching knowledge.

“I didn’t know how important it was to keep in contact with the parent and keep the parent informed of the progress of their student, but working here I’ve found out how important that is and how much more the student would be successful with that contact with the parent,” Kemp said. “You have to really stay with the students and provide one on one support for them and just frequently check on their progress and how they’re doing and how well they’re staying organized with their materials to study and keep in contact with their parents. I’ve learned that speaking with their parents one on one is essential for students to be successful in school.”

In the two years that she has worked with Kemp, Kemp has inspired Brooks to pursue her goals, and explore new ideals. Brooks said that without Kemp, the environment in the academic lab would not be the same.

“Ms. Kemp has taught me to always explore new things. I’m going into nursing and she used to be in nursing and she’s like you might get tired of it after a while and having older people die on you might make it sad, but pursue going through the chain of command,” Brooks said. “If you have your CNA become an RN or LPN or CMT or become an EMT if you want to, but she’s always telling me to explore new things and explore your goals and to always be open and not just stick on one thing and end up hating yourself because you didn’t try anything else.”

Although, Brooks will no longer be at RBHS next year, she is still saddened by Kemp’s departure and believes the upcoming years in the academic lab will be a different environment.

“I think its going to change a lot with Ms. Kemp and them gone. Ms Kemp is like a big jokester and stuff and she’s always got a joke for you and always got a story for you from when she was younger. I think a lot of people are going to be sad and if all the other teachers left everyone would be lost and no one would come to this room anymore,” Brooks said. “This is where we come if we need to talk about problems or anything like that then we come here and talk to them. We don’t talk to our counselors and they’ve always tried to help us see the bigger part of what’s going on and how we need to get our work done. How we need to perform better in football or track or how we need to deal with our relationship problems with our family. They always try to give us the good side of things, but they also give us the reality of the real world.”

Kay Williams, a learning specialist who has worked at RBHS for 12 years believes Kemp has made an impact on RBHS students.

“She has a great ability to build relationships with kids,” Williams said. “She relates to them and she is able to draw them out and is able to talk to them about their needs and helps them with anything they need to do.”

Although she is excited for her future in education, Kemp said that she will always remember the students, staff and the environment that RBHS has provided her in the past two years.

“It’s going to be very hard [to leave RBHS] I’m going to miss this place. The students are very friendly, and the staff is astronomical they provide a lot of support,” Kemp said, “My students have taught me that they can be successful as long that their teachers never give up on them, as long as their teachers give them clear expectations, clear consequences, and as so long that their teacher provides them with the necessary materials to become successful, they will become successful … they’ve taught me to persevere no matter what comes my way and I think it’s a really great lesson to learn.”

By Jacqueline LeBlanc

[/tab] [tab title=”Mark Maus”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

Garbled voices filled the congested hallways of RBHS as returning students pushed their way to familiar corners of the building while those that had never set foot inside RBHS stood idly by and searched for a familiar face. It was just another year of school for juniors and seniors. But for the sophomores, it was their first day of high school. And just as unknown to Rock Bridge as the sophomores was the new principal, Mark Maus. Not unlike the sophomores, he found himself lost in a sea of unfamiliar faces – from faculty he had just recently met to all the students he had never seen before that day. Now, however, after three years spent at RBHS, Maus has integrated himself into RBHS culture and said he will never forget his time spent here.

Before coming to RBHS, Maus worked at Oak Park High School for nine years as a teacher and later as the assistant principal. But, he said he came to RBHS because he “knew it was a fantastic school and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to become principal here.”

“My wife went to school here for a semester, and she actually student taught while her sister was in med school,” Maus said. “She came down here and student taught at Jeff Junior and Hickman as a special ed teacher. So my only exposure to Columbia [before moving here] was coming down and watching an occasional football game or visiting my, at that time, girlfriend when she was student teaching.”

However, Maus said when he did make the transition from Oak Park Hill High School to RBHS, one of the first things he noticed about Columbia was it’s value of education. For him, it is one the things that makes Columbia and the community surrounding RBHS so memorable.

“[Columbia has a] community that absolutely values education and believes that everyone should get it, and everyone should be able to have the opportunity to find their path in it, whether it’s going straight to MU and majoring in pre med and going into med school, or whether it’s doing two years at Moberly using your A+ money and then transitioning, or whether it’s looking at a smaller school environment and going to Stephen’s. But it is absolutely a community that values education.”

Maus noticed this value of education spills over into RBHS, where he sees teachers and students and administrative staff constantly collaborating to make RBHS better for the students. He particularly believes in the concept of freedom with responsibility that RBHS cherishes so much. It is a concept, he said, that RBHS has taught him.

“There are schools out there that say the adult spoke and the kid needs to listen. And that’s just not the case here. It’s a much more democratic school. And one of the things I’ll take away [from RBHS] is that idea of freedom with responsibility and that when you trust kids and when you show them through your actions [that you care] and you give them [freedom], [they respect you], and rather than things being earned, they’re given. When you’re a junior, you get an AUT. That’s part of it. I think that is something I’ll always take away from here.”

But while freedom with responsibility is an ideal RBHS has taught Maus, assistant principal David Bones said Maus has brought an enthusiasm for the students and for the culture of the school to RBHS that cannot be replaced.

“Mr. Maus has a crazy amount of energy, [and he’s] a high energy guy [with] a crazy amount of enthusiasm,” Bones said. “He gets kids just so well. He just relates to students so well. He has this fun, easy-going kind of demeanor, but [he] also knows what’s important. He does such a great job at kind of getting to know people and making them feel welcome. And it’s always difficult when someone comes from outside of Rock Bridge to be principal or kind of an important leadership position because Rock Bridge culture is so different. And Mr. Maus just kind of kept the culture going without missing a beat.”

For Maus, getting to know students on a personal level is simply part of who he is and part of integrating himself into the RBHS culture. He said building relationships, from a school environment to outside the classroom, is what shows others that someone cares about their success.

“I wish that I could say I built a relationship with every student that walked the halls here. But just [the students] outnumber me by too many,” Maus said. “So I guess that’s just part of me and I think [getting to know students personally] helps [because when] you ask someone to do something or you have to redirect and say, ‘Why don’t you have your paper done?’ or ‘Great job on the recital,’ having that relationship from before [allows for] more meaning behind [your actions and words]. And people are much more willing to listen when they know that you care about them and want them to be successful and want to know about them.”

Not only will Maus be missed at RBHS, but he said RBHS, too, holds a special place in his heart. From his first day as principal in August of 2010 to his last day in May of 2013, Maus has built relationships with countless students and inspired them with his enthusiasm for their success and the school’s. Schaller said she couldn’t imagine graduating with any other principal and is glad she has the chance to finish out her high school career with him, and she knows she doesn’t just speak for herself.

“I would say my fondest memory of Maus was when I interviewed him last year. I was in Journalism, and I didn’t really know how the interview process worked exactly yet. When I interviewed [Maus], I asked him about Rock Bridge and the athletics and academics of the school. He was so passionate about our school when he answered my questions. It really struck a chord in me. That’s when I knew no one could beat how deeply Mr. Maus cared about Rock Bridge. That’s when I knew we had the best principal imaginable.”“I would say my fondest memory of Maus was when I interviewed him last year. I was in journalism, and I didn’t really know how the interview process worked exactly yet. When I interviewed [Maus], I asked him about Rock Bridge and the athletics and academics of the school. He was so passionate about our school when he answered my questions. It really struck a chord in me. That’s when I knew no one could beat how deeply Mr. Maus cared about Rock Bridge. That’s when I knew we had the best principal imaginable.

By Ipsa Chaudary

”Mark Maus’ leaving was featured in a previous article on BearingNews:

“Maus steps down as principal” By Atreyo Ghosh, Daphne Yu, Brett Stover and Laurel Critchfield

In a faculty meeting today with superintendent Dr. Chris Belcher, RBHS principal Mark Maus announced he was stepping down as principal of RBHS next year. Athletics Director Dr. Jen Mast is expected to take his position for the 2013-2014 school year.

[/tab] [tab title=”Jamie McSparin”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

With the opening of Battle High School this coming semester, change has been eminent for the district, the schools, and especially the teachers. BHS has provided job opportunities for eager teachers, with its convenient location and brand new opening, so teachers from both RBHS and HHS have submitted their transfers and shed their school colors for the chance to succeed in the new school.

Among them is Biology, Astronomy and Environmental Science teacher Jamie McSparin. McSparin has been a teacher at RBHS for 2 and a half years, starting second semester of 2010. Early this year, her husband also joined the Bruin Science staff and will be joining her at BHS. Their departure will leave students at a loss, as they have so fondly contributed to the science department here at RBHS.

McSparin’s departure will leave students at a loss, as her years at RBHS have so fondly contributed to the science department. Junior Garrett Zyk, who was enrolled in Astronomy first semester, appreciated McSparin as a teacher and enjoyed his experience in the class.

“What made her class different was she had an easy going and inviting environment and it felt like home,” Zyk said.

BHS offers many opportunities to teachers looking for a change, and a chance to be more involved in their school district. Not only is there a new teaching staff altogether, but the opening of a new school allows for teachers to be further involved in the decisions and policies of the school.

“[Leaving for battle] is bittersweet because I’ve loved it [here],” McSparin said. “I love all of the friends I’ve made here and all of the students but it’s best for our family [to leave] and it’s a lot closer to our house and daycare, and it just makes sense geographically for where we’re living.”

While McSparin makes plans for next year, teachers in the Science Department at RBHS are making plans to fill the shoes she left. McSparin’s calm, easy-going and friendly demeanor was greatly admired by her co workers, and Biology teacher April Sulze said that her leaving will be a great loss.

“She’s not only a great colleague but she’s also a great friend,” Sulze said. “I’m not only losing my partner teacher but I’m losing a friend. She’ll at least still be living in the same town and we’ll still collaborate together, and it’s sad because she was a great asset to the department here.”

Though her leaving is a loss for RBHS, McSparin has much to look forward to in the furthering of her career at BHS. The new school, teaching staff, and plethora of students throughout Columbia will allow for a diverse and brand new experience. While RBHS was a home of sorts for McSparin, she looks forward to the opportunity the school will provide.

“[I look forward to] getting to know new co workers, meeting new students, learning by opening a brand new school because we really get to make it our own and that’s really exciting,” McSparin said.

By Hagar Gov-Ari

[/tab]

[tab title=”Dr. Tim Wright”]

Dr. Wright sitting in his office wearing that huge smile we all know so well.
Dr. Wright sitting in his office wearing that huge smile students all know so well. Photo by Audrey Clark

Dr. Tim Wright just announced he will be leaving RBHS after eight years as assistant principal. He has been with the Columbia Public School district for a total of 17 years but will relocate to Florida to be closer to family members.

Wright started his career in education 27 years ago in San Jose, Calif. at an all-boys Catholic high school. Along with being a teacher, he was the head varsity cheerleading coach or, as he calls them,”Yell Leaders”. The cheerleaders replaced pom-poms with megaphones and spent hours after school preparing cheers to perform at games and assemblies. Wright was with them all the way.

Once Wright moved to Columbia in 1991 he became the first assistant principal at the new  Lange Middle School where he stayed for three years. He also taught for five years at Hickman High School and spent another five as the assistant principal at Oakland Junior High School. So, not only will he be missed among the students and faculty at RBHS, but by people all over Columbia.

Although Dr. Wright has been an assistant principal for the past 17 years, his real passion is being a teacher.

“The only way I could have been comfortable with leaving the classroom” Wright said, “(was) if there was some teaching element.” His passion for educating is what makes him so unique as an administrator.

“They’re not learning math or science or social studies from me, but they’re learning appropriate behavior.”  Wright says, “I have always kept that mentality of being a teacher even as an assistant principal. So I say I’ve been in education as an educator for 27 years because my approach has always been ‘it’s a learning model.’”

Through Wright’s approach of constantly educating students he has been able to form personal relationships with each of them. These relationships, he claims, have been immensely helpful throughout his career. In fact, Wright’s goal from the beginning of his career has been listening to students so they’re aware that he honestly cares for them.

“[Open relationships with students] are one of the things I’m most proud of as an educator,” Wright said.

However, this ”‘open-relationship” philosophy has not always been his co-workers favorite approach when disciplining students. Many teachers in the past have told Wright that  students aren’t afraid of him so they aren’t intimidated when they’re sent to the office to see him. Wright’s response to this is simply, “awesome”.

“I don’t want anyone to ever be afraid of me, that’s not what I’m about,” Wright said. “I can have a relationship with a student and hold them accountable without having them fear me.”

One thing Wright is going to miss the most about working at RBHS, besides the students themselves, is its unique culture.

“I have taught in three different high schools,” Wright said, “and there’s just a different culture at Rock Bridge…this is for students and it’s also for faculty as well. I love the ‘freedom with responsibility’…it’s not a tagline, it’s not a motto, it’s a part of Rock Bridge.” Wright says,  “We as adults live it every day, we instill it in our students…it’s not a catchy little tune, it’s what we do.”

Wright thinks that “freedom with responsibility” is what has really set RBHS apart from other schools and is what’s responsible for our school’s overall success.

“There is a different culture at Rock Bridge. Hickman has extremely bright students no doubt about it. They have fantastic, wonderful faculty no doubt about it. Awesome, excellent teachers, and I believe that.” Wright said.  “But I also believe that the Rock Bridge culture sets it apart.”  It’s due to RBHS’s uniqueness that Wright believes it “is a really great place for students and definitely a great place for faculty.”

Another thing Wright is really going to miss is his past and current students saying hello to him outside of school.

“I’ve been 22 years in this district and so, as you can imagine, am old enough to have former students of mine whose children are now students at Rock Bridge.”  Wright says, “So being a member of this community, what I’m going to miss moving to Florida is running into people that I know that I has as students.”

Not only have students come up to him once or twice. But they tend to find him no matter where he is.

“Everywhere we go at some point students will come up and talk to me which I think is awesome…I’m going to miss that,” he said.

One would think this would only happen around Columbia, but Wright has had such an effect on so many people that he can’t seem to get away from students coming up to him. He has run into RBHS students everywhere from vacationing in Breckenridge, Colo., to sitting in an airport in Texas coming back from Cancun, Mexico.

Faculty and students alike will miss Dr. Wright at least as much as he’ll miss them.

“I was sad to hear the Dr. Wright was leaving. I think he’s done a great job at establishing positive relationships with students” Dr. Jordan Alexander, junior counselor at RBHS, says, “He seems to have a great grasp of what students need and is aware of their family situations. I’ll miss his positive attitude and his willingness to keep offering support to students to be successful.”

As you talk to RBHS students his relationship with each and every one he’s come in contact with is very apparent.

“He’s a really awesome person” sophomore Maria Yuha said,  “and everyone is going to miss him.”

Although Wright’s time at RBHS has come to an end, his career in education has not. In fact, Wright loves being an educator so much that he hopes he’ll never have to stop.

“I love working with students,” Wright said.  “I’ve been doing it for 27 years. People say, ‘When are you going to retire?’ and I’m like, ‘Gosh, hopefully never.’”

Even though Wright doesn’t yet have a job secured in Florida he has been a finalist for some positions he has applied for and is hopeful he’ll be able to secure a job in the next two or three weeks. Ideally, he would prefer a position as an assistant principal since that has been his position for the past 17 year, however he says that he’d have no problem going back to the classroom.

“If the only thing I can find is a teaching job I’ll be thrilled to death about that,” Wright claims.

By Audrey Clark

[/tab] [tab title=”Quentin Mitchell”]

Photo by Renata Williams

Quinton Mitchell, LOP room supervisor and basketball coach, has been a faculty member at Rock Bridge High School for four years. However, next year Mitchell will not be coming back to RBHS, instead, he will be moving Chicago, Illinois.

“It’s bittersweet… I’m going to miss Rock Bridge, but it’s a new experience,” Mitchell said. “I hope I have touched a few kids lives here.”

As a basketball coach, Mitchell has seen success; with coaching two teams to the Final Four. Sophomore Chris Williams, member of the basketball team says he’ll miss Mitchell, who the teams calls “Q,”

“He was a great coach,” said Williams. “If you did good, he gave you what you deserved. You had to work for everything. You had to earn everything. I was on the bench the first part of the season, and I had to work hard to be a starter.”

Mitchell’s departure is going to have an impact on the basketball. He pushed the team hard, making them do runs repeatedly, making them a faster, and better team.

“The team without him isn’t going to be as fast-paced,” said Williams. “He wanted to win and we’re not going to be as fast-pasted anymore. It’s going to be different, we’re not going to have as much freedom on the court anymore.”

Though Mitchell pushed the team hard, continually getting them to put in their best, he was still popular among the students. And while he was an LOP supervisor, he was still well liked among the students.

“He [Mitchell] was pretty nice,” said junior Scott McAfee. “If there’s a mean LOP teacher that’s going to be different, because he’s nice.”

Though Mitchell is leaving, he will not soon be forgotten. The impact he made on the students, specifically his basketball team, has been great, and RBHS students will remember him after he has gone.

“He was good, he was easy to get along with,” Williams said. “We’ll miss you coach.”

By Humera Lodhi

[/tab] [tab title=”Dean Ray”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

When the 2013 fall semester at RBHS begins in August, special education teacher Dean Ray will be leaving RBHS to teach at Battle High School, after six beloved years of experience as a proud Bruin leader.

Ray will be continuing his work with special education students next year at Battle, and is excited to continue instructing a subset of students who he is passionate about teaching.  In addition, he will be undertaking another role by assisting Battle’s work experience coordinator.

“I will be working with their work block and work exploration classes,” Ray said. “I’ll also be working with their work experience coordinator, which is the person who helps students find jobs so that they can work and receive school credit.”

Although it will be difficult to say goodbye to the faculty and students he has worked with for so long, Ray said the element of anticipation associated with teaching at a brand new school makes leaving RBHS a bittersweet experience. He is looking forward to helping shape the unique environment of a first year high school.

“I am excited to go to Battle,” Ray said. “It really is an opportunity of a lifetime to open up a new high school and help set the culture and the new traditions and to get that whole experience that a new school brings.”

A colleague of Ray’s, educational diagnostician Tim Dickmeyer, recognizes the value of such an opportunity, and is pleased that Ray will get to influence Battle High School during its first year of operation. Though he recognizes the value of Ray as an irreplaceable coworker, Dickmeyer said he understands why Ray made the decision to switch schools.

“The draw of being in a group of teachers that set up a new school is pretty cool,” Dickmeyer said. “They’ve got all kinds of new challenges and exciting things, and they essentially get to establish the school culture that they want.  That’s a really exciting, so you’ve got to be excited for him.”

The happiness Dickmeyer feels for his colleague’s bright future doesn’t quite overshadow the sadness in watching him leave.  Dickmeyer said he will miss Ray next year, and described him as a special part of the RBHS community.

“He’s just a reliable dude,” Dickmeyer said. “It’s going to be hard to see him go.”

Dickmeyer isn’t alone in mourning the loss of a memorable RBHS staff member.  A special education student of Ray’s, sophomore Dominick Williams, described Ray as both an exemplary teacher and an all around good guy, and said he will be disappointed to see such a valuable member of the bruin family leave.

“He’s also the best teacher we ever had and we had so much fun together,” Williams said. “We’ll miss him.”

By Anna Wright

[/tab] [tab title=”Kassie Redmond”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

As the school year comes to a close, friends and staff say goodbye for the summer. Some staff members, however, won’t return to RBHS in the fall.

Kassie Redmond, a learning specialist here, will move to Kansas City in July. She has worked as an educator for five years, spending three years at Gentry and the most recent two years as a Bruin.

“I feel really disappointed that she’s leaving, but I feel like it’s a great opportunity for her,” said senior Tasha Brooks, a student of Redmond’s. “I think that she’ll have fun meeting new, different students… Different schools run different ways so she might enjoy herself learning how they handle their school and maybe she can give them ideas on what we do here.”

Redmond spends most of her time in the resource and Academic Lab, or AcLab, room. Her classes are small, usually 10 to 12 people, which makes for a friendly, laid-back environment. Her goal in class is to aid her students in whatever subject they need help with, whether it be math or English.

“She’s awesome. She helps me a lot,” said junior Austin Lebel, a student of Redmond’s. “She’s always got time for you. She’ll help anyone too it doesn’t even have to be this area [the AcLab room].”

Her students are able to get a better understanding of their subjects with this extra help. Redmond helps her students in all areas, giving her a bit of review as well.

“People come in here with all different content areas, and there are some things that I have no idea about and some that I’m good at,” Redmond said. “I’ve learned a lot about high school kids in general because I was at middle school [before]…Teenagers are becoming young adults; you are young adults. You’re becoming your own person, and you are your own person, and you’re exploring that, so it’s kind of cool because it’s just a completely different developmental stage than middle school students.”

Redmond offers her students emotional support along with academic aid. She serves as a mentor for her students and works along with them.

“She’s helped me with work. She’s helped me with emotional problems,” Lebel said. “She’s just overall a good person. She accepts me for who I am.”

Redmond, along with her husband and their two daughters, plans to move because of a promotion Redmond’s husband received. Her husband’s family lives in the Kansas City area as well. She says she will definitely come back to visit, especially if there is a time where Kansas City schools have sport games against Columbia schools.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Redmond said, “but I’m glad to be going to the next stage of my life.”

By Sophie Whyte

[/tab] [tab title=”Bob Thalhuber”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

Bob Thalhuber’s leaving was featured in a previous article on BearingNews:

“RBHS teachers will open Battle High School” By Parker Sutherland

Columbia Public Schools selected seven candidates to fill the roles of leadership positions at Battle High School for the 2013 grand opening.

 

[/tab] [tab title=”Dan Ware”]
Photo by Pen Terry
Photo by Pen Terry

From the Sydney Opera house in Australia to the Hutongs in China to the Louvre in France, social studies teacher Dan Ware has nearly seen it all. Since his first trip with Rock Bridge students in 2004 to England, France and Spain, Ware has taken groups of students on trips for the past nine years out of the twelve that he has been a teacher at Rock Bridge. Ware will take his last trip with Rock Bridge students next June to England and Ireland, which will occur while Ware is still in England.

Next year, Ware will venture to the outskirts of London, England to teach upper-school history. Ware plans to teach there for at least a year, taking his sabbatical year, and after will decide whether he wants to continue teaching there or if it’s not the school for him and possibly come back to teach at Rock Bridge.

In 2001, Ware was placed at Rock Bridge when he was a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia doing field observations. He said he had never been to the school before, but his first day of field observation he knew Rock Bridge was the school he was destined to teach

“I remember walking through the front doors and literally I knew, in that moment, this is where I want to be,” Ware said. “There is something about this school. Some kids came up to me and asked me if I needed help finding some place. Obviously I looked lost. That was just cool, and I’ve loved Rock Bridge ever since. I knew that I needed to do anything I could to make sure that I taught here.” 

Since that fateful day, Ware said he has loved teaching at Rock Bridge, and that it has been like a second education for him. He said he equates him leaving this year to the graduating seniors because the seniors have spent 12 years in school until this point, and Ware has spent 12 years at Rock Bridge.Ware said he has grown, developed and learned from so many different teacher and interacted with a wide variety of unique students during his “second education.” 

Rock Bridge has had a significant influence on Ware’s life. He said Rock Bridge has really taught him most everything he knows about teaching, and than everything he is as a teacher and everything he believes about how students learn and how they should be treated is because of his time at Rock Bridge. Ware said for the past 12 years he’s learned something about himself as a teacher and as a person from the students, the administration, and the other teachers. 

“Rock Bridge has helped me to be so much more confident in myself,” Ware said. “I’m not afraid of failing or taking risks or trying things I’ve never tried before because this is such a supportive place. Without getting too cheesy, this is the kind of place that asks you ‘why not?’ Having that experience professionally has absolutely influenced me personally.It’s influenced my character by allowing me to feel so much more confident in those characteristics that I possess, like to not be afraid to speak my mind, to be honest with people, to be more confident is the main thing.”

As much as Rock Bridge has impacted Ware’s life, English and United States studies teacher Mallory Weber said Ware made her first year teaching at Rock Bridge smooth and memorable. Weber and Ware taught AP Language and U.S. Studies together, and this year was Weber’s first year officially being a teacher. Weber said Ware has so much experience with teaching at Rock Bridge that everything he did helped her to develop skills that college education doesn’t necessarily teach you coming out of school, and that was the most beneficial things that she has learned throughout the process of being a first year teacher.

“Ware and I have a really good time together,” Weber said. “There are times in the studies department that you’re paired with somebody that you don’t know coming in and you get to know them really fast because you’re with them every day, the majority of the day. He has given me so much confidence in the way that I carry myself and the way that I teach. There have been a lot of great memories and we’ve had a lot of fun together. I think the friendship that we’ve created has really helped in how we’ve taught together.”

Weber said she has grown in her understanding of how to be a better teacher because of Ware and will miss getting to learn from him while teaching with him next year, but that he will accomplish incredible things while he’s gone. While sad to see him leave, Weber said she is excited for Ware’s future endeavors.

“For him, I think it’s something that he’s ready for and he’s thought about, and I think it’s going to be a great experience for him and he’s going to love it,” Weber said. “At the same time, talking with him all the time about it, it’s one of the toughest decisions he’s ever made and that he absolutely loves Rock Bridge. It’s been a hard process for him, but I think, in the long run, he’s going to love it.”

Like Weber, senior Ouma Amadou said she will miss the presence Ware brings to Rock Bridge and who he is as a teacher and traveler. Amadou first met Ware when she was in 9th grade because she took a couple classes at Rock Bridge while in junior high.

During her sophomore year, Amadou found out about a Paris trip Ware was taking a group of students, and was interested in going so signed up. Amadou also partook in Model United Nations, a program at school that Ware sponsors. She said it wasn’t until her junior year when she took AP U.S. Studies with Ware that she got to learn about all of his skills and found out how multifaceted he was because before she had known him from traveling with him. 

“Traveling with Mr. Ware was really great,” Amadou said. “He really made me feel comfortable. I was one of the youngest on the trip. Most everyone else was like a junior or senior, but he just lead us and put a lot of trust in us. He would just let us roam around and then we’d have to meet back up at certain times, but that was really it. That was really cool.”

Amadou said she is grateful for Ware as a teacher because he is lively in his lectures and goes through the material to make sure everyone understands. She said she will miss him as a teacher next year, but, like Weber, is knows Ware will influence the people around him wherever he goes and will hopefully enjoy himself.

“He really tries hard to make the material interesting for all the students and for himself too,” Amadou said. “So, I’m sad that he’s leaving. He adds a ton of spirit to what Rock Bridge really is. I feel like he’s just such a great person at this school. He’s just a teacher, but he adds depth to what we are as a school. At the same time, I know he’ll be great at his next school in London, and that all the kids there will love him too.”

Ware said he’s a bit apprehensive about what the future might bring and where he’ll end up, but he’s mainly enthusiastic to begin a new chapter of his life. He said he will take all the tools Rock Bridge has graciously given him over the past 12 years, pack the tool box that he consists of, and is ready to use his tools to start a fresh journey and make the most of his experiences to come.

“I feel like I’m a senior again and I’m graduating just like the seniors, and I’m taking with me on this great adventure all the skills that I’ve gathered over the years at Rock Bridge,” Ware said. “I look forward with excitement, with anticipation, and a little bit of worry. I look back with fondness and a little bit of sadness too to leave it all behind.”

By Julia Schaller

BearingNews covered Mr. Ware’s travels in depth here.

[/tab] [tab title=”Peggy White”]
NK1_9445
Photo by Renata Williams

In a small room in a small corner, Peggy White is hard at work with the English Language Learners, helping them get used to a new country. White is a teacher who actually cares about her students, forging an unbreakable bond between them.

“She invests so much time and energy in her classroom,” Senior Maria Kalaitzandonakes said. Kalaitzandonakes, White’s Teaching Assistant, says that White helps kids take “their first steps through a scary, new world.” White understands the needs the new kids and creates a second home for them at Rock Bridge.

When White moves to Battle next year, she will miss most the trusting atmosphere within RBHS, “which has been really good for [her] ELL students.” The trust helps build much needed confidence in the kids just introduced to a completely new culture and language, which in turn allows them to assimilate themselves into the school’s student body. White is very passionate about her job.

“It’s so easy in an ELL class for a few kids to slip through the crack, fall behind and get overlooked,” Kalaitzandonakes said. “But she cares so deeply and wants so much for each student that that could never happen in her classroom.”

White spends countless hours with her students, helping them through the shock of moving to a new country and teaching them a new language. She also sponsors the International Cultural Club, which helps inform people of foreign cultures, getting even closer to her students.

The bond between White and her students could be compared to a bond between a mother and her children. Because of this, White will miss her students very much, but most of all the respectfulness and eagerness to learn of her students.

Still, White looks forward to teaching at Battle. White will have better technology and a larger classroom to advance her students’ progress in learning English and becoming part of the American society. White’s students believe she is a great choice for her new position, albeit the fact that they are losing her.

She is “extremely well suited” for the position, Kalaitzandonakes said. “Battle is going to be so new, and they need a pro for the ELL department more than almost any other.”

Imagine a kid just arrived from Zimbabwe. He takes his first step into a foreign school, speaking little English. He shies away from everyone, managing to get to his first class without speaking to anyone. Stepping into the room, the teacher warmly greets him and makes him feel more comfortable, eventually becoming good friends with him. That teacher is Mrs. White.

“When people come to the States for the first time and are learning about English and everything, the world is turned upside down,” Kalaitzandonakes said. “They need someone [at Battle] who can make the ELL students feel comfortable from day one. [White] is that person.”

By Derek Wang

[/tab] [tab title=”Denise Winslow”]
Photo by Renata Williams
Photo by Renata Williams

World Studies and Pop Culture teacher Denise Winslow has spent much of her life at RBHS. After graduating from the school, she completed her student teaching here and has spent the last six years teaching full time in various studies positions.

“She knows the curriculum like the back of her hand,” World Studies teacher Ashton Honeycutt said. “It’s sad for me to see her go because she’s someone who has been a part of the school for quite a while.”

While she has spent much time at RBHS, Winslow is excited at the idea of starting at a brand new school that she and other faculty can watch develop.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “I will always be a Bruin because I graduated from here…but not many people get the chance to be at the beginning of a new school. I’m really excited to create the traditions there and see how Battle grows.”

The opportunity to help build a school’s culture from the ground up excites Winslow, but the feeling is mixed, as she must say goodbye to the school she grew up with and the students she had hoped to see around the halls next year as juniors and seniors.

“This week has been bittersweet, I’ve been saying goodbye, and I had my moments,” she said. “Especially with my students. I’m going to miss them because every year I like having them as sophomores come back as juniors. Sometimes you never know know how much you left an impression until many years later, and I would like to say that I did.”

She hopes she can bring the lessons learned at RBHS to Battle to create a supportive culture similar to what she’s experienced at RBHS, and one that helps students realize their full potential.
“I hope to see at Battle that we treat students as if they’re going to be good,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot [here], so I’ll take everything I learned to Battle. A lot of the kids are coming from junior high and middle school, and I hope at Battle we have high expectations for all kids.”

Winslow will be entering Battle next year as an experienced teacher, capable of whatever challenges this leads to, and she believes students can do the same.

“Whatever we give them they can do,” she said. “I got that from Rock Bridge.”

By Jilly Dos Santos

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1 comment

Denise Winslow May 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Very nicely done. Thank you for taking time to put this together!

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