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'Camelot' in School District 24

May 13, 2012 - By Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

As retirement nears, I realize my happiest years in education were in Shoshoni.

The doors to a career open in a variety of ways.

We arrived in Riverton in July of 1983, and Sue was immediately hired to teach reading at Lincoln Elementary. There weren't any teaching positions for me but even three decades ago there were coaching shortages.

I was hired to coach seventh-grade football and sophomore basketball for the Riverton Junior High School Spartans and the Riverton High School Wolverines that fall and winter.

I decided to pick up a science endorsement and took 23 credit hours that fall at CWC. It was a good move, as I was hired to teach eighth-grade science during the spring semester.

A one-year middle school math position opened the following year. I didn't have a math endorsement, but had a couple of classes from my days as engineering major. I decided to challenge four math classes. I took the tests, passed them, paid the $12 for each class, and had a math endorsement.

The Ranger had an opening for a sports writer in the fall of 1984, and I took on my now familiar beat of small school football, basketball and track.

In the process I became friends with two of the greatest coaches I've ever had the privilege to work with, Harold Bailey and Chuck Wells. Shoshoni schools had an opening in the fall of '85 for someone with multiple endorsements, and my Wrangler career began.

I continued to write for the Ranger in the fall of 1985 covering Harold and the Wranglers as they won a state football championship in snowy Cheyenne.

My days in Shoshoni were the highlight of my career. In a perfect storm of educational excellence, the people surrounding me at the middle and high school level in Shoshoni were the best anyone could hope for in the public school realm. In retrospect, the synergy that existed in the halls of the old building was nothing short of miraculous.

I'd worked with excellent teachers in Riverton and Lusk. In Riverton, Tom Zingarelli was perhaps the best middle school teacher I've ever watched working with that awkward age. Our paths crossed many times in the next three decades.

Principal Terry Statton at RHS was the first good administrator I encountered and it was refreshing to find him.

On the coaching side, Mike Harris was the classiest coach I've ever worked under. I learned much more than strategy and practice techniques under his leadership.

I learned the power of friendship with intensity from Jim Kennedy in basketball and track. Bill Strannigan was the perfect athletic director for a young coach -- all business, with a no-nonsense approach. He let you know when you did a good job, and he let you know when you didn't.

But Shoshoni was something more than the sum of its parts. There was something very special taking place that if recreated would revolutionize the paltry world of education today. Sadly, it was probably just an aberration, but what an aberration it was.

I taught out of a briefcase the first two years in Shoshoni and had a different classroom each hour. Math, science, history and computer science were all part of the day's work. Six preps in a seven-period day kept me hopping. After school it was football and basketball as Chuck's assistant.

No matter the academic discipline, there was someone there who was an expert in teaching children the subject. As a history teacher I often found my curriculum meshing neatly with what Cathleen Galitz and Tim Ervin were teaching upstairs in English.

The duo made the subject come alive for an entire generation, and when time permitted I would sometimes sit in their classes during my prep period just to admire their technique.

In 1988, Shoshoni's junior class had a 29 ACT science composite. Imagine 17 different teenagers doing that well on an arbitrary test. Jerry Kummerfeld, Jim Yager and Gail Moravek were the reason these kids did so well.

Science was an engaging subject with these men and it became a lifelong passion with many of our students.

Cyndi Moravek taught nearly all the high school math classes along with Karen White. I took the junior high and a couple of lower freshman and sophomore courses.

While the academic core was as solid as granite, the elective classes were just as good. Who could argue with a music teacher whose band class set the school schedule?

Mike Powell's band had nearly every middle school and high school student enrolled and the rest of us either had a miniscule class or a prep period.

The Wrangler band won so many state marching titles and superior ratings at festival that it almost became commonplace.

Rita Isabel was the consummate business teacher,and as a cheerleading sponsor she took care of all the little things and just let us coach. Her yearbook was stellar as well.

Ron Ankeny and Bob Meredith's woodshop and vo-ag classes epitomized the farming and industrial base of the district and the kids produced some amazing projects.

Steve Gresbeck and Janie Nirider meshed elementary and middle school with our high school curriculum and remain excellent educators to this day.

These were the best days of my career and in spite of many other accomplishments I take the greatest pride in being part of this stellar group.

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