Almost every year, there is at least one teacher in Rock Bridge High School that moves on from this building of education. This year, the number of educators that will not be returning is at a running total of 11 teachers. All will be missed and as they leave this school and move on into the future, RBHS says farewell to these teachers with hopes of them to excel in anything and everything they do. These teachers include Tara Kinsley, Matt Dingler, Tim Drennan, Kory Kaufman, Katie Walthall (Glover), Rich Hadfield, Mary Margaret Coffield, Jessica Mathews, Kristen Pinto, Marie Durham and Alex Huck. [vimeo url=”https://vimeo.com/95287166″ width=”640″ height=”360″] [tabs][tab title=”Matt Dingler”]
After three years of developing a strong relationship with his world studies teaching partner, Bree Engebritson, this teacher will move from his Alma mater high school over to Kansas, City, Mo. to be with his fiance.
As he leaves, RBHS says farewell to the duet of “Ding and Eng” as Matt Dingler leaves the family he has been building for the past five years.
“We have together more friends there and family there than in Columbia, and so it just makes more sense to do that. I would never leave Rock Bridge otherwise. This is my home, Columbia is my home in so many ways. There’s a lot of elements of another home over in Kansas City so that’s where I’m moving.”
Although his partner for three years, Engebritson who only taught with Dingler, is upset with Dingler for leaving, she understands the circumstances and is glad for his opportunities that lie ahead.
“You ask anyone who partner teaches, its essentially a marriage and this is the year we’ve had the class for a couple of years, we’ve got it figured out and it’s basically smooth sailing and it’s been a really great year to end on,” Engebritson said. “So I’m sad that he’s not going to be returning, but I’m extremely happy for him with his new engagement, his new job and his new steps in his life.”
During the first year of teaching together, though the experience was troubling, Dingler felt as though he grew as a teacher and as a person from this difficult time.
“Whatever good fassets I have as a teacher, I know that the year that really changed things for me and when I felt effective at my job, when I was on the right track was the first year [Engebritson and I] taught together,” Dingler said. “In a lot of ways, because it was the hardest year I had as a teacher, as far as teaching load goes, as far as students we had to deal with goes, and just having a new partner who had never taught with before.”
Though the teachers had obstacles from their first experiences with one another, Engebritson thought that the countless hours spent after the school ended up making the class more enjoyable and well worth the effort put in by these teachers. With Dingler continually teaching her the history during the first year together, she always behind but now understanding it helped her in the long run.
“Our first year together we had a really hard time getting it figured out, especially with me being completely new and it was his first year in world as well,” Engelbritson said. “I think one thing that I really like about our partnership is when we’re planning or we’re in the class, we both want to be engaged and we want to do it all together. Dingler is on top of his stuff for like everything with planning and for me especially in the beginning stages of teaching together.”
Throughout their teaching together, Engebritson helped Dingler with her support of whatever Dingler was doing. This in turn helped also the students by creating a positive environment for learning and being supportive of them as well.
“Engebritson has always been supportive and has always done what it takes for us to be successful and for our students to be successful as well because that is when we are successful, when are students are successful,” DIngler said. “And she has always been 120% supportive and trustworthy and I can’t imagine my Rock Bridge experience without her.”
Another experience Dingler enjoyed every year at Rock Bridge and will miss was the tradition of announcing merit scholars and high-achievements that students accomplished in and outside of school during assemblies.
“It seems to be a tradition that we always have an absurd number of national merit semi-finalists and presidential scholarships and things like that. Thats a tradition that we always seem to have,” Dingler said. “We almost always have someone who gets a perfect on like a nationwide exam. In the spring, we always have the special olympics and the special services and stuff like that always get recognized at the assembly and get a standing ovation. That’s another cool thing that we do here. That tradition of celebrating diverse accomplishments I think is something that is awesome.”
Instead of telling students what they cannot do, Rock Bridge encourages students to take a risk for a high reward, Dingler said, which is one of the biggest pulls for DIngler to return to his former high school when he first became a teacher and affected his decision while making a .
“I have been teaching here for five years and in that time, things that I have observed is that Rockbridge is a positive place,” Dingler said. “Not all high schools have a positive atmosphere and that was one of the things that I looked for when I was looking at my next job that would be in Kansas City. That’s one of the things that has been the case at Rock Bridge that I’ve seen.”
Leaving his former school behind, Dingler knows he will take his experiences on to help him in the future. Dingler believes he grew not only as a teacher from his classes, but as a person too. Similar to what he thinks seniors do every year, he wants to take everything he learned and put it to use similar to what he taught his students to do for five years at this high school.
“When I sign my signature on anything Rock Bridge related, I always put Matt Dingler and a small RB ‘04 in the top of it because I am a RB 2004 graduate and it’s definitely a part of me,” Dingler said. “My experiences at RBHS over the past five years, the only thing that formed me more is my faith. My Rock Bridge experiences and my faith are the two most formative things in my life. So, how do I feel leaving here? I recognize the value in the experience that I’ve had and I’m very thankful for it. But at the same time I know that all the things that I have learned here, now it’s time to use those elsewhere.”
By Justin Sutherland[/tab] [tab title=”Mary Margaret Coffield”]
After 23 years of teaching, 10 of which were dedicated to the theater program at Rock Bridge, acting teacher Mary Margaret Coffield takes her bow as RBHS says farewell to this retiring teacher.
With many plays, students and memories under her belt, Coffield built strong bonds with the young learners she had, senior advanced acting student Piper Stretz said.
“She establishes a relationship with you to where you know she genuinely cares not just about what you’re doing in her class but everything that is happening in your life. Like she asks about your parents, your family, your job,” Strez said. “She just cares about you. Nowadays in high school teachers don’t seem to care about you much past their subject matter is so it’s kind of refreshing.”
One of the most obvious ways Coffield built relationships with her students was the countless hours she spent after school with the students who were involved in the various plays Coffield directed where many of her fond memories at RBHS came from.
“I’ve enjoyed all of [the plays i’ve done]. I know that sounds like a cop-out answer but i really have enjoyed all of them in different ways. Different ones have had different neat things about them,” Coffield said. “Sometimes its that the cast has really gotten along well and has really helped support each other, sometimes its that the show was exquisitely polished. These and other various things I’m saying apply mostly to the shows and the one act plays I did.”
After taking six different classes with Coffield in her three-year span of high school, Stretz started to learn more and more about Coffield’s personality and teaching styles. Inside of the classroom, Stretz was impressed with her teacher’s ability to help students learn, however when it came to Coffield’s directing capabilities, Stretz grew even fonder and more impressed.
“Mrs. Coffield is an amazing person, but aside from that she is an incredible director and she just has a creative vision that is incredible and involves everything she does,” Stretz said. “She’s very good about helping you and pushing you in the right direction without doing everything for you and telling you what to do. She very good about feedback but is also really open to your ideas, which I think makes the show really work.”
However, though the plays were a big part of Coffields time and energy, this was not the only place where Coffield made her memories and bonds with students. Inside of her now five different types of classes, the students made an impact and left memories for this thoughtful teacher.
“In the classroom, some of my best memories are times when a bunch of kids did something really phenomenal together. I’ll think of a student or that student’s name comes up or I see them and an image of that student in a moment of creativity or an effect that that student was able to create comes to my mind. So over ten years, there are just so many of those memories I can’t pin it down to only one or two memories, there’s just so much.”
Though her experience here at Rock Bridge created fond memories for her during the eleven years teaching here, with the first year being the Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, Coffield is excited for the time and trips planned for her retired years away from teaching.
“My parents who are in their mid-80s now I really treasure whatever time i can get with them, they currently live in Florida but they have owned for about 45 years a property up in the way upper-north part of Michigan near lake superior and there [are] two nice houses,” Coffield said. “It’s out in the boonies and we really love to spend time together there and so one of the things I’m looking forward to right away is spending time up there sometimes just with my husband.”
However, the plans don’t stop there for this couple. With Coffield’s husband being into military history, they started looking into some places they can explore related to that along with some of their genealogy. And with the time consumption of school being mostly gone for Coffield now, she plans to increase volunteer hours and pick up some more books along the way as well. Most importantly to Coffield though is the availability she will have for her family in a time where many parents need, or want it, most.
“I also have four grandchildren and two more on the way so by the end of this calendar year I will have six grandkids,” Coffield said, “and I would really be helping out as babies are being born and that kind of thing.”
With the option of a half-retired program at Rock Bridge, Coffield decided not to do so at this very time, but her mindset could potentially change in the future. While away from her teaching profession, the biggest thing that she will lose, Coffield said, is the creativity of her students and the outlets she was able to provide for them in her classroom.
“The creativity of my students and how that has energized me is one of the biggest things I’m going to miss and My own avenues for being creative,” Coffield said. “Unless you do theater, it is hard for you to imagine how much preparatory time a director puts in before they ever start, like with my plays. It’s like a work of love and even my classes because of theater being what it is, especially with the advanced acting class.”
By Justin Sutherland[/tab] [tab title=”Tara Kinsley”]
Laughter is the most common thing you will hear coming out of any of this teacher’s classrooms. Though this young teacher will move on to a different job with their spouse in Joplin, RBHS says farewell to the laughter, joy and learning brought by the duet Tara Kinsley and Alex Huck as Kinsley moves on to teaching in Carl Junction.
“It’s a really small town that’s basically connected to Joplin and it’s [a town of] about 7,500 people, so it’s a way smaller school,” Kinsley said. “I have so many students at Rock Bridge that I care a lot about and they warm my heart. But the freshman this year have been so awesome and I’m so glad that we got freshman here because they are at such a cool age. I really do have a great group of kids from seniors all the way down to freshman so that will be pretty tough to leave.”
With his partner for teaching leaving, Huck says he will miss the fun and feeling with his partner to be himself which Huck and Kinsley had during their first year of teaching together. Since their personalities matched up so well, Huck said, the thought of losing it saddens this RBHS Fellow; however, though the relationship shall end, the memories built together will live on for Huck when he looks back at the times he had with his one-year colleague Kinsley.
“It’s not one single memory, but we always find a way to make fun of each other completely in front of the class, whether thats me making fun of her shopping obsession or her dog obsession or her for some reason finding it hilarious to tell the class that I’m going to have a baby or get married one of the two, it varies,” Huck said. “Just at least once a week we both find a way to make the whole class laugh by making jokes on one another.”
Teaching Civic Studies and Pop Culture along with Advisory, Kinsley thought she grew as a person through her experience of teaching at RBHS and her memories will cling especially to the second-hour Civic Studies class she had this year.
“My second hour class is one of the classes that is literally, in the years that I’ve been teaching, just magical and probably my favorite class of all time,” Kinsley said. “The kids are awesome, and we have a blast in there every single day. That class is probably my favorite memory if that can count.”
With the Civic Studies class being new to Rock Bridge, as the ninth graders ushered in a new era at this school, Kinsley and Huck joined in a social game as the younger students began to join RBHS. Though previous experience with freshman helped her throughout the year, Kinsley’s excitement for rejoining with her favorite age rekindled when administration told her that freshmen were coming to RBHS.
“I really believe as a department as a team teaching group we were kind of able to experiment and to see what works with ninth graders and how to integrate them,” Kinsley said. “It was a really unique experience to be in and part of that integration process, and I love ninth grade. I taught ninth grade six years before I came here so I was super excited to be in on that.”
One of the toughest parts for Huck and Kinsley as they taught the ninth graders was showing the Rock Bridge culture of “Freedom with Responsibility” while still maintaining a little more control since they were at a younger age. So to compensate, they allowed their students to have work-days for their projects throughout the school year.
“You sort of have to limit that seeing as they are so young to the Rock Bridge way,” Huck said, “but it starts with maybe if they have an ongoing project just saying, ‘Hey, you have a work day, we trust you all will hold each other accountable and do the work. If you would like to go to the media center, that’s fine we’ll come check up on you to make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to.’”
Though Kinsley does not believe this ideology of “Freedom with Responsibility” would work for all districts, the overall effect works well at Rock Bridge mainly because of the desire to keep this unique tradition alive in RBHS. And although it needs some alterations, Kinsley wants to see this uniqueness continued.
“I think it has a lot to do with buy in, the teachers buy in and the students buy in so everyone wants to make it work,” Kinsley said. “It’s something that everyone values and they don’t want it to go away so people try to protect that because it’s really cool and unique. When people want to maintain something, they work hard to do that.”
By Justin Sutherland[/tab] [tab title=”Tim Drennan”]
Though this educator retired once before, they continued teaching students and building relationships through the half-retired program available at RBHS. After a grand total of 34 years of enlightening students while developing strong bonds, whether in his full-time or half-retired career, RBHS says farewell once again to the relationship-building AP Psychology teacher, Tim Drennan.
“I learned a lot. I met a lot of great people and I’m probably a better person for being here. I’m not sure I can delineate all the ways,” Drennan said, “but probably telling kids how to do things better I ended up doing them better at home like parenting, being a husband that kind of stuff.”
Over time and many classes, Drennan developed various relationships with his students that they and he continued throughout the course of the years. Some moving as far away as California and keeping in touch, even though they are in screenplay writing having little to nothing to do with psychology.
“I think my best memories weren’t so much stuff that happened here as the relationships I made,” Drennan said. “I did a lot of coaching, I met a lot of people that way. And I still keep in touch with a lot of students even that I had all the way back in the ‘80s, so that’s kind of nice.”
One student Drennan made a strong impact on was junior Sam Gurnsey. Gurnsey enjoyed his time with Drennan for AP Psychology this year; however, with Drennan leaving, Gurnsey is sad to see him leave since Gurnsey wanted his younger sister to take his class as well.
“[My sister] is self-motivated enough to do the extra notes that mr. Drennan offers and also provides which from what I hear is particular to just him. She also enjoys learning about herself and that’s what Drennan teaches,” Gurnsey said. “He teaches psychology. He doesn’t teach by the book per say. You can’t learn what AP Psych with Mr. Drennan teaches you from a book or an online class because he seems like a person that knows more than the book it feels like.”
This difference in teaching drew Gurnsey in the first day he entered Drennan’s class, specifically by the introduction and follow up his new, older teacher used and soon became one of his favorite classroom memories.
“When Mr. Drennan got up and introduced himself and said, ‘I like to teach college classes’ was one of my favorite classroom memories because I’m one of those people who like to be in class and take it at my own pace and rate and he’ll give me, whether as fast or as slow as it needs to happen, but he’ll still prepare you for the AP test.”
One thing that Drennan does differently with his classes that other teachers may not is the amount of free time he allows his students to have. Though he hopes the students do the work he asks, Drennan understands that not all will do so. What he hopes students learn from this is what actual college will be like.
“I didn’t sweat whether they used that time for my class or not unless there was something they had to bring back with them, but I think that is what college is like,” Drennan said. “You’re going to have to figure out how to manage your free time and you’ll have even more of it in college. It may not have helped you specifically if you aren’t intrinsically motivated to do psychology but overall it helped you to be a better time manager.”
With him teaching Psychology and Psychology teaching him, Drennan felt as though the importance of his class played day-in and day-out for him and his students as well. With him leaving, however, he feels the Psychology department is left in capable hands and will continue to be a popular class for AP RBHS students.
“I think the class is well set up and people will be mentored along as they need to be. I think psychology will take care of itself,” Drennan said. “What I’ve found about psychology as opposed to history is it’s a very easy sell because it is relevant here and now. History is not so easy to convince people it is relevant here and now.”
By Justin Sutherland[/tab]
[tab title=”Rich Hadfield”]
Rich Hadfield, a teacher at RBHS, will retire for the second time at the end of the school year. Hadfield started to teach at RBHS in May of 1980 as the band director. He said coming into the school for the first time is his favorite memory in his teaching career, and as he walks out the last time as he retires, RBHS says farwell to Rich Hadfield once again.
“I walked through those doors and immediately my eyes were drawn to the massive welcoming feeling of the school with the the sky lights, wide halls,” Hadfield said. “The building was bright and clean. All I can remember saying to myself was, ‘Wow, I could teach here.’ Little did I know then that I would spend so many years walking under those skylights.”
Hadfield taught in a rural school district south of St. Louis prior to coming to RBHS. He directed a large and successful group of marching band students there, he said, and was hesitant to move from his old job when RBHS called him to become their band director.
“I must admit at first I was reluctant to leave a school that had a successful program to basically start over again,” Hadfield said. But “it was a decision that I never regretted. The opportunities that I have had as a teacher and more importantly the opportunities all three of my children had at RB cannot be measured with what is offered in smaller schools. RB students often don’t realize how great they have it here.”
After teaching for 21 years as the band director at RBHS, Hadfield thought it was time to make way for someone else. However, he said he wasn’t sure he was making the right decision when he retired from RBHS in 2001. He decide to stay and teach film analysis for 13 years.
“Before the school year was out in May of 2001, the principal asked me if I would consider staying and continue to teach the Film class,” Hadfield said. “I have been lucky to basically have a second career of another 13 years. At that time, RBHS expanded the course into two sections.”
As Hadfield said, he didn’t know he would teach for 34 years at RBHS. Retiring for the second time was not an easy decision for him, but he said he knows all good things must come to an end. Hadfield said there are many things he will miss after retirement.
“I will miss the contact with all the wonderful young people that I get to teach and learn from on a daily basis,” Hadfield said. “I often hear people ask me how I can put up with teenagers all the time. These people have a warped view generated by the media of how bad youth is. The youth of RB that I have had contact with will be adults with great vision. I have loved filling those minds.”
Senior Thomas Preston, a student who goes to Hadfield’s film analysis class, said Hadfield has a passion for teaching and that is something which will be hard to find after he leaves.
“Hadfield has a unique personality, and especially in the music department there is going to be a transition, like the end of an era,” Preston said. “You can tell he loves what he teaches, and it makes his class a lot more interesting.”
Since he won’t be teaching film analysis third and fourth hour on B days from August to June, Hadfield will have to find other things to do to fill his time. He said he will look to travel around to see his family more often once he retires.
“My children are all adults, and I want to spend more time visiting them and my three granddaughters,” Hadfield said. “One of my twin sons is a lawyer in Fort Collins, CO. I’m going to do more skiing with my two granddaughters, who five and seven year old. They are already better than I am. My other son is a professional percussionist who teaches at New York University in Manhattan. He is constantly traveling all over the world as a freelance musician and is in need of baby sitters to help out his wife. His wife is French and teaches law. My wife and I plan to spend more time in France with her family.My daughter just got married this past February and lives across the Hudson in New Jersey with her husband. She works in the Empire State Building for the FDIC.”
Even though 34 years have passed since Hadfield’s first day at RBHS, he said there are many things about RBHS that remain the same.
“Rock Bridge nurtures a very caring environment for learning. The faculty cares about the students and the students, on the whole, care about the faculty,” Hadfield said. “There’s just mutual respect all around. You can’t say that about all schools. RB had only 850 students when I first came here, and we have been lucky to preserve the best aspects of a small enrollment as the school has grown.”
By Harsh Singh[/tab]
[tab title=”Kory Kaufman”]
When Kory Kaufman was a student teacher at RBHS in 1987, he didn’t know he would be a full-time physics teacher at the same school 26 years later. Kaufman moved from West Junior High School to RBHS in 2013 to teach freshman physics, though he plans to return, RBHS says farewell to this educator as he leaves the school for one year to work with the University of Missouri-Columbia Physics department in a program called Tomorrow’s Outstanding Physics Teachers. Kaufman said the program is a three-year grant that will help create more physics teachers in the nation.
“It is a nationwide, statewide district-wide problem that we don’t have enough physics teachers,” Kaufman said. “I will be joining the program in its third year and will look to really reach out to others to convey how amazing physics really is.”
Knowing he was still adjusting to the RBHS atmosphere, Kaufman said leaving for a year was a hard decision to make. At the end, the opportunity to join a nationwide physics program was too big to let go of. Kaufman said missing out in joining the program would be a decision he would always regret.
“Rock Bridge has been great to me so far and leaving for a year after teaching here for the first time is kind of like a weird taste,” Kaufman said. “However, I will only be gone for a year, and I know the physics department here will be able to adjust in my absence.”
Even though he will only be gone for a year, freshman Keerthi Premkumar, one of his students, said there will be small chinks in the science department during his absence. According to Premkumar, Kaufman is one of the best teachers he has got to know.
“He always has a smile on his face,” Premkumar said. “He has all the qualities of a great teacher, but he also has a great sense of humor that is sometimes hard to find in teachers today. Next year’s freshman will miss out on a great physics teacher.”
Students not in Kaufman’s class also know and see him on a daily basis. Junior Alp Kahveci said Kaufman occasionally pops up in Mrs. Wessel’s first hour honors anatomy class and just lightens everyone’s mood in there.
“Many people including me always joke about how his voice is so similar to Vince Vaughn’s voice,” Kahveci said. “The freshman in his physics class are certainly luck to have such a great teacher.”
By Harsh Singh [/tab]