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Page 8 The Advocate News (Wilton-Durant, Iowa) Thursday, June 6, 2013

'So many memories ... I feel pretty darned blessed'

s the 2012-2013 school year came to experience of reading The Adventures of Tom a close earlier this week, one of Wil- Sawyer by Mark Twain a book she still had tons finest and one of my favorites her classes read to this day. Helen Schabilion dismissed class for the We also talked about how she made students last time. After 26 years give speeches. I rememteaching middle school ber this vividly because language arts, Schabilion throughout my scholastic is retiring from the junior career, Schabilion was the high wing of Wilton Jr./Sr. first teacher to truly make us High School. have to conquer the fear of Walking out with her is public speaking. Ive never quite a legacy of unforgethad much of a problem with table relationships, teachgiving speeches in my adult By Derek Sawvell ings and experiences. life and I attribute that to I learn far more from those humble beginnings my students than they ever do from me, said in her classroom. Schabilion, who has been teaching the same lesShe about knocked me off my chair with her son plan to eighth grade language arts students ironclad memory. for nearly three decades. Im still learning things I specifically remember you did a speech on about things I have taught for 26 years. golf, using wadded up tin foil as golf balls a She had previously taught in Muscatine for very good speech, Schabilion said. four years but stopped teaching for 10 years With the thousands of speeches shes heard when her daughter, Rose, was born. over the course of three decades, I was shocked She has two children Rose and her son Tru- that she remembered. Yes I did give a speech man Wally. She also has three grandchildren, about proper grip and technique with golf swings, all five years old or younger. That will keep mainly putting. It touched my heart that she me busy. Thats a big part of my (retirement) remembered. plans right there, she said. We also talked about her famous phrase One of the hardest things about becoming an circle your wagons. We did this often in class. aging WHS alum is having to watch my favorite All the students would position their desks in teachers retire. I dearly loved Mrs. Schabilion one large circle in the room to have discussions. and have treasured the conversations weve had We would all come up with questions, which in years since I was one of her students in the she would write on the board, and then wed mid 1990s. I told her that on one hand, I love discuss as a group. She found that when everyone to be there to see my favorite teachers retire as could see each other and react, it made for better they surely deserve it. discussions and students were less intimidated Yet on the other hand, I selfishly wish many of to speak. my favorites would teach forever, simply so that Everybody sees each other and can share the generations of students to follow me would with each other. Then kids have a better underget the benefit of their wonderful abilities. standing and experience, said Schabilion. Schabilion was sharp, witty, quietly funny Perhaps the wagon terminology is a derivaand compassionate as an educator. She made tive of her fascination with the West. Although subjects like reading and writing as fun as they her parents originally met at the University of could be with her unique teaching techniques. Iowa, Helen was born in Nevada. Her father was When I went to visit her classroom last week, a mechanic who worked on large mining vehicles we talked about a few. and when she was very young, her family moved Shes the last junior high teacher standing to the mountains of South America (Peru), livfrom the group that opened the new junior ing at 8,000 feet while her father worked as a high wing at WHS in 1994-1995. mechanic around the copper mines. They were I talked with her about the unforgettable there as Helen completed grades 2-4 and her

Case in Point

mom taught at the local school. They came back to Iowa, where her father established a trucking business, when Helen was in fifth grade. Shes a graduate of Central Lee High School. It was a shock, said Schabilion of coming to Iowa. I couldnt believe there were no mountains on the horizon. I couldnt believe the green. It was like a park. She stayed in the green that was Iowa, attaining her education degree from the University of Iowa and currently lives in rural West Branch. Shes also done quite a service to West Branch over the years as well, serving as a park ranger during the summers at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site for 23 years. While she always imagined herself out West in a park likeYellowstone, her experience as a park ranger has taken her as close to her roots as Iowa may allow. Shes able to give tours of the facilities and the grounds and do some environmental activities such as give prairie walks. My job is to interact with visitors about Hoover and the Iowa story, said Schabilion. Plus I get a radio and a badge so thats good, she said with a laugh. She will continue her work at the Hoover site this summer and into the foreseeable future. Although shes used to working 40-hour weeks during the summer, due to the sequester at the federal level, she will now be cut to four-day work weeks. Shes also looking forward to being available to give tours when next school year begins. When talking about her decision to retire, I asked her why now? Why 2013? She said that the graduating class of 2013 was an interesting class to say the least when they were eighth graders. I said when you guys walk, Im walking, Schabilion recalled. I just said it as kind of a remark but as time went on I thought yes 2013 is the year. It takes you awhile to get used to the idea. When you put in that much time and work, and give it all you can give, it takes some time to wrap your head around it. Im ready now. Im inserting a photo of Schabilion standing at her infamous podium. Sure its a place where

Goodbye to one of the good ones Helen Schabilion, a junior high language arts teacher at Wilton, is retiring after 26 years. She's shown above standing at her podium, which was custom painted by former WHS grad Erik Grunder.
Photo by Derek Sawvell

perhaps her students spent just as much time, as she often sat in a desk among the students while the wagons were circled. But it holds a near and dear place to her heart as it was painted by former WHS grad Erik Grunder. Its red with the black spokes of a wagon wheel in the background and rays of a gold sun in the foreground. She said when Grunder was getting the idea for painting it, he asked a student what do you think of when you think of Mrs. Schabilion? The student simply replied: Sunshine. So many memories. So much growth. I feel pretty darned blessed, said Helen.

'Drastic cuts that directly affect the students'

Editor: I am writing wondering if the people of Durant realize what is happening to the school district. Consider: There will only be one guidance counselor for grades pre-K through 12. Questions to ponder: Guidance counselors have hands on responsibilities with students. How will one guidance counselor serve the varied needs for well over 600 students and remain active and connected with the students? How will the guidance counselor be prepared for the specialized needs of the students in K12 by August? The elementary classes require the counselor to teach certain classes in the classroom to the students. How will one guidance counselor to serve well over 600 students be an incentive for our current students to remain in the school district through graduation? How will this be attractive to potential new families seeking a new residence that includes a progressive school district? The role of a guidance counselor is far more than a superficial/token position that simply counsels students with problems they may be experiencing. How will one guidance counselor have time to support anti-bullying policies and also be responsible assisting students college counseling too? Additionally, the transition from eighth to ninth grade is a critical time and requires the guidance counselor to have time to help support in preparing students for high school. Consider: Students wanting to take business classes will now have to travel to Wilton. Wilton is on a block schedule and Durant is on a 7-period schedule. These two schedules cause scheduling difficulties for students; just as the agricultural classes do that we currently share with Wilton. This will negatively impact our students. (Speaking from experience, I know this to be a scheduling nightmare.) Questions to ponder: Wilton students will have priority in filling the Wilton business classes. How is this beneficial to Durant students? State law requires schools to offer classes in four of six vocational career oriented areas. Durant will now only offer two of these career areas on site; Industrial Arts and Family and Consumer Science. How will this be an incentive for the current students to remain in our school district through graduation? How will this draw new families to the school district? The state supplements the vocational programs financially and this will now be negatively impacted. What is the degree of financial loss to the Industrial Arts and Family Consumer Science classes from the state? Last year was the only year our school district gave access to the business classes to Jr. High students; feeder students for future business classes. The Industrial Arts program and the Family Consumer Science classes have had this benefit for years. Why was scheduling not done prior to this past school year that would have allowed the Jr. High students the option of learning about our business classes just as they had for Industrial Arts and Family Consumer Science? Durant will pay Wilton to teach the students business classes. What are the financial savings of sharing? Durant will pay to have the students transported to and from Wilton. What is the financial savings adding this to what will be paid Wilton to teach our students? Consider: Durant will now have one librarian to serve two libraries. Questions to ponder: Librarians have hands on responsibilities with the students especially at the K-8 level. How will decreasing people who directly assist the students be beneficial to them? In what ways will an associate in the high school library impact the extent to which this resource is used by high school students? Consider: Durant is cutting the speech program which is a very small financial savings to the district in both salary and transportation to competitions. Questions to ponder: Of what benefit will this be to the students? To remove options for students encourages them to be less involved in school. How will decreasing the co-curricular programs offered to the students encourage current students to remain through graduation and promote an incentive for new students to enroll in the school district? Both the drama and speech opportunities offer students diverse experiences in ways academic and sports programs do not. Consider: Durant is decreasing our school plays from two per year to one per year. Again, a minute savings and, again, targets the students who have a desire to experience the fine arts. Questions to ponder: Of what benefit will this be to the students? How will decreasing co-curricular activities offered to students offer an incentive for new students? Consider: Durant is cutting the music program. Questions to ponder: Why was the position completely cut rather than a reduction to part-time? How will students continue to master an instrument without lessons which will suffer by only having one music teacher? As stated in a previous letter to the editor, there is a state fiscal incentive for school districts sharing operational functions that is intended to increase the educational opportunities for students by redirecting resources. Why would the superintendent and our school board choose to make such drastic cuts that directly affect the students? Students are hurt and the ground they lose will not be easily recovered, if recovered at all. Lost opportunities are, often, just lost forever. Why is Wilton willing to share a superintendent, and perhaps other operational functions, and Durant is not particularly in light of the monies that are available to enhance the educational opportunities for the students? The school board does have to honor the current contract in place for the superintendent. He is also 812 certified to be a principal. His duties can be assigned as the board determines. Why is the board not taking advantage of the state money available by rearranging our administration and/or operational functions? Our superintendent, as well as other district operational functions, has the least, if no, hands on effect on our students. Our students will miss business classes, speech, drama, music, counselor and librarian availability before they will miss an administrator and/or other district operational functions. It appears the Durant school board doesnt understand how to be good stewards of tax payer money. They understand the need to make budget cuts but either they do not understand the available options for budget cuts that would enhance the educational opportunities for our students, or they simply refuse to think outside of the box. In light of the state incentive money available, it will be interesting to see what expectations become of the Durant residents. Regardless of the outcome financially, the school board chose to approve options that deeply injures the education of the students. I am asking Durant residents to please make their voices heard to support programs that are needed by our students. Janet Friederichs Walcott