Extended Educational Experiences (EEE) teacher Gwen Struchtemeyer is the ultimate master at a variety of skills: ACT prep, instructing and volunteering. To students she is a teacher, a therapist, a counselor and tutor. But most importantly, she provides her students with a variety of life lessons, particularly those in Rock Bridge Reaches Out (RBRO), which she sponsors.
Now that Struchtemeyer’s time at RBHS is nearing a close due to her retirement, the students she has worked with are beginning to reflect on her impact. Senior Emily Litton is a RBRO co-president and believes Struchtemeyer has not only taught her about volunteer work but also given her support when she needed it most.
“Mrs. Struchtemeyer has been such an awesome support throughout my time working with her. She brought so much joy and enthusiasm to RBRO as a sponsor,” Litton said. “The value of reliability is something so simple, but it is always something that I’ve carried with me from RBRO. In activities, it’s so easy to ignore things and say, ‘Oh, someone else will do it,’ but you really can’t do that. Any little thing helps, and it is your responsibility to see what you are able to accomplish and take action.”
Throughout her time as the RBRO sponsor, Struchtemeyer managed to cultivate a culture which encouraged not only responsibility but also emphasized the core values of volunteering. Senior Emma Burton is the RBRO core leader of Project Linus and believes in what Struchtemeyer has taught her to improve her skills in volunteerism.
“RBRO reinforced the importance of volunteerism to me and taught me the joy of working with a group of like-minded people to make a difference. Mrs. Struchtemeyer, through RBRO, taught me how to better manage large groups of people as well as communicating clearly and in advance with such groups to be as efficient as possible,” Burton said. “By encouraging students to make a habit of volunteering and providing the best resources she can to do so, Mrs. Struchtemeyer has bettered the school and the mindset of the students within. I hope that even once she is gone, the work Mrs. Struchtemeyer put into biggering and bettering RBRO over the years will be maintained along with the culture of student volunteerism it created.”
Looking back on her years of teaching, Struchtemeyer has taught others but also learned many lessons. To Struchtemeyer, every student she has worked with has taught her at least one thing that she will carry with her for the rest of her life.
“I hope that the students I’ve worked with remember that I have shown them that they can do anything that they want to do, that they are more than just a number or a score and if they’re willing to work hard then they can improve,” Struchtemeyer said. “Every student I work with teaches me something often with a question they ask that I hadn’t considered yet. And routinely when I work on the ACT, I’m always writing notes down on a pad that I hadn’t thought of before. I think that is one of the most sublime aspects of teaching that you’re always learning something new and that you’re getting to work with young people that are excited about the future and eager to play their part.”
With the end of the year and thus Struchtmeyer’s retirement approaching, Litton hopes the lessons Struchtemeyer taught her, and RBRO alike, will remain with her for the rest of her life. Her hope is that the next sponsor of RBRO will give future students those same life lessons and experiences.
“It’s hard to predict the future, but I hope that RBRO continues to grow and be filled with people who have as much enthusiasm for service as Mrs. Struchtemeyer,” Litton said. “Going out into the community and helping others has been one of the most memorable and transformative experiences for me and I hope that the opportunities presented to me are available to RBHS students for years to come.”