Three retire at Madison-Plains
By Dean Shipley
With the conclusion of the 2011-2012 Madison-Plains school year, three social studies teachers retire. Their cumulative experience adds up to 101 years, all of which were spent at Madison-Plains Local Schools. Debbie Cooper, Dustin Deyo and Chonita Warner are all calling it a career.
Two of them, Deyo and Cooper came from families with teaching backgrounds. All three claim a teacher, either family or otherwise, exerted a positive influence on their decisions to enter the education profession.
For Deyo, 58, teaching was not only a family tradition but also a Madison County tradition. His mother, Shirley Deyo, now age 94, taught at Madison South and Madison-Plains. His grandfather, Ross Deyo, taught in a one-room school house, formerly located at the intersection of state Route 56 and Robison Road. His star pupil was John Bricker, who became governor, senator and vice presidential candidate.
From that storied lineage came Deyo and his siblings Bruce, Sheryl, Melinda, teachers all. (Deyo hopes his son, Ross — named for grandpa — gets a shot to continue the Deyo education legacy at Madison-Plains, where he has been a substitute teacher.)
Deyo said for his 35 years of teaching and coaching he enjoyed being around the students. As he taught social studies and coached, he tried to instill in them character, honor, loyalty to their school, “try to make them a better person.”
He has seen many changes over 35 years. The person entering the teaching profession today has more state mandates to deal with and more technology to know to be an effective teacher. Of the former Deyo said preparing students for the standardized tests removed hours which could have been devoted to teaching.
“You have no choice to prepare them,” he said. “But it takes time from actual teaching and lessons.”
One of the lessons he will take into retirement is the timing of vacations. Planning to travel to the American West and the Florida Everglades, Deyo said vacations will be taken “when school is in session.”
He also wants to spend more time with his four young grandchildren.
Chonita Warner is also planning to spend time with a grandchild who is on the way. The 30-year veteran of the Madison-Plains classrooms is looking forward to that new role in her life.
She said at the beginning of the year, she had not yet made the final decision about retirement. A woman of deep Christian faith, she prayed about it. When she finally made the decision to retire, she said she felt a peace about the decision.
Her decision to become a teacher was made after her first grade year. Her teacher, Frances Fulton, exerted a hefty influence on that decision.
“I’ve always had an interest in children,” she said.
After taking a teaching degree from Mt. Vernon Nazarene College, she began her teaching career in August 1981 at Fairfield School. She taught third grade there until the school closed. Then other opportunities opened up and she took a position teaching sixth grade social studies.
When the elementary schools closed and students were moved to the consolidated buildings Warner enjoyed the change. She liked the rooms with air conditioning.
“I put in a lot of hot days in those old buildings,” she said.
It has been a rewarding career for Warner who said she had a good opportunity to reach students. Based on compliments from former students, it sounds like Warner did just that.
She and her husband of 31 years, Bill Warner have two children. Nathan Warner carries the education field to one more generation by teaching at Eastland Performance Academy. Derek works with his father in the auto parts business.
She looks forward to being more involved in the ministries of her church, Mt. Sterling First Church of the Nazarene.
Debbie Cooper was just a first-year teacher at the South Solon building when she experienced a defining moment. Her great aunt, Edna Early, had come to visit. Debbie told her she was teaching in South Solon. So Aunt Edna wanted to visit “the old school.”
When they arrived on site, Aunt Edna pointed to the room in the corner of the building on the second floor which was her room.
“That’s my room,” Cooper replied.
That was the last year of operation for the South Solon School. Cooper was moved to Midway School where she spent 27 years, where she taught language arts and science.
As expected she has seen many changes over the years, of which the largest have been the state mandates.
“They tied our hands with state mandates,” she said. “We’re orienting to the state and have to answer to the state.”
She sees it as “good and bad.” She realizes the state wants all children statewide to have the same education, whether they’re in a wealthy or poor district.
She also has had her share of students who returned to say thanks and some who went into education because of her influence.
She was touched by a recent e-mail from a student she had who is now married with children. She finished her education in early childhood. She said she chose it because Cooper and another teacher, Betsy Ames “showed that we cared and helped her along.”
Another child, fourth grader, said she would come back and show her her college diploma.
Cooper told her, “You’ll have to find my nursing home.”
Beyond managing the village pool at Jeffersonville, Cooper has no plans for her retirement. After teaching two generations of families Cooper said, “I swore I’d be out before the third generation.”
But she found teaching two generations had its value. If a child misbehaved, Cooper could generally stop it by saying, “don’t make me call your parents. That usually took care of it.”