Eck reflects on 39 years of teaching
BELOIT – As Beloit High School graduates walked across the stage to accept their diplomas on Friday, Donna (Creevan) Eck, can reflect back on her 39 years of teaching as she watched her former students reach their goals.
Eck graduated Stockton High school in 1977 and Fort Hays State University ion 1981 with a degree in Elementary Education and certified in Elementary K-9, General Science 7-9, and Mathematics 7-9.
Eck interviewed with Gail Applebee (Elementary Principal) and John Bottom (Superintendent of Schools) and was hired with USD #273 to teach fifth grade in 1981. "I remember telling my mother after I was hired that I would be in Beloit a maximum of three years," said Eck. "But I ended up meeting my husband, Jay, and we stayed in Beloit to raise our family. My children, Matt and Brittany, saw my classroom as their second home as I often was working on plans and getting class supplies ready on nights and weekends.”
In her 39 years of teaching, Eck moved her classrooms three times.
"I taught with some amazing fifth grade teachers," said Eck, "Including Norman Newell, Ken Fischer, Anne Palen, Janet Jorgensen, Christie Fouts, Kayla Bonebrake, and Kylie Snavely. I also experienced several changes in principals including Ron Marozas, Joel Applegate, Derek Holmes, Byron Marshall, Brady Dean, and Janet Porter and also changes in Superintendents with John Bottom, Greg Renter, Joe Harrison, and Jeff Travis."
Although in the upper grades there were a few years of having selfcontained classrooms where she taught all academics, most of those years involved departmentalization in which some subjects are taught by the other teachers in the fifth grade. While departmentalized, Eck taught Written Language (English) class to all fifth graders, while teaching math, reading and spelling to her own homeroom students.
Eck was nominated several times for the USD #273 Teacher of the Year Award, winning it in 1996. She also won the Celebrate Literacy Award given by the International Reading Association and the Thunderbird reading council in 1997.
“The best words to describe teaching over the years are “change” and “flexibility,” Eck said. “ Every day is a new experience. No matter what is planned, it is guaranteed to change because of whatever is happening throughout the day--changes in schedules, student needs, emotions, discipline issues, world happenings, celebrating birthdays and accomplishments, etc. Even from year to year, teaching methods change.”
Eck has seen similar methods emerge several times under different names in an effort to deliver the best education to the students. The biggest adjustment, she says was the transition to online learning.
"Although having new unexpected experiences can be good, I did not enjoy this method of teaching," said Eck.
"I missed the classroom interaction and the relationship that comes from personally being with students each day. Parents were wonderful during this experience, but it just wasn’t the same as having students in the classroom."
Some favorite teaching memories for Eck included joking and puns in class, seeing the amazement on a student’s face when they finally got the concept being taught, baking “giant” cupcakes for the class, viewing the Solar Eclipse in Nebraska and other field trips, holiday happenings, reading and writing stories, building and launching rockets, and interactions with the staff.
With retirement, Eck hopes to spend more time with family, friends, and hobbies. She also wishes to travel some.
“I have wanted to retire while I am still young enough to really enjoy the time that remains," said Eck.
Eck says the biggest thing she will miss is the interaction with the students.
“ I love getting hugs in the morning when they arrive and when they leave at the end of the day, joking with them, seeing their eyes light up in amazement, watching them accomplish their goals, and following them in activities at least until they graduate. “
“When my husband and I were first dating, I would always refer to my class as “my kids”, Eck said. "He was worried and finally got the nerve to ask how many kids I actually had. He was relieved to find out it was my class at school. He has found out over the years that any former student remains one of “my kids” forever. They remain in my heart for a lifetime.”