Longtime teachers say goodbye to Valley


CUTLINE: Mrs. Rule  and Mr. Tweedy say goodbye after a combined 61 years at Valley Community School.






Longtime teachers say goodbye to Valley

Brian Smith
Contributing Writer

It wasn’t just students that said goodbye to the Valley High School last week, but several longtime staff members as well as they closed the door to their classrooms for the final time. Al Tweedy and Ellen Rule are just two staff members that decided to retire at the close of the 2012-2013 school year but have fond memories of the school and students alike.

Al Tweedy

Al Tweedy has been teaching at Valley Community School District for the past 28 years. During that time he has seen plenty of students, colleagues, and educational initiatives come and go. Now, as he is set to retire from teaching, he looks back on it all with a sense of satisfaction and some good memories.

Tweedy graduated high school in Oelwein and later studied at William Penn College in Oskaloosa, the University of Northern Iowa, and finally Upper Iowa University before earning his degree. Eventually he did his student teaching at Fayette Junior High. His desire to work with kids and his love for athletics are what drew him into the field of education.

“I think I decided on teaching as a career somewhere between my late high school years and my early college years. I was really interested in coaching as well, but ended up not doing as much of that as my own children got older and involved in sports,” recalled the longtime Valley employee.

Mr. Tweedy’s first assignment was to teach fifth grade in the old Larrabee School building in Clermont. Later he moved to the new elementary wing that had been built onto the high school at Valley, still teaching elementary school students. Then in the fall of 1993, he began teaching junior high and high school science classes. Most recently he has taught high school science courses such as physical science, biology, and anatomy. In addition to this, he also taught a health course, as well as junior high and middle school-level science courses during the past few years.

Tweedy notes several things that have changed during his time as an educator. Class sizes for teachers have increased, while the overall numbers of students have decreased. Budgets have gotten smaller, while the costs of materials needed to teach science have gone up. Like many teachers today, Tweedy himself would often buy some materials that he needed in order to have what he wanted.

“Of course, technology has also increased a great deal over the past several years, for teachers and students,” noted Tweedy.

The former science teacher also recalled several different educational mandates that teachers have been involved with over the years. The most recent of these is the Iowa Core, which requires schools and teachers to focus on specific educational standards in literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, and 21st-century skills.

“There were several different initiatives that came and went while I was teaching,” remembered Tweedy. 

While keeping up with the paperwork and the requirements of the state are things that Tweedy will not miss, there are things that he will remember fondly.
“Whenever I see former students and they tell me that they felt prepared or well-educated to go on to college or a career, it is always a good feeling,” smiled Tweedy.

Other experiences also stick out in the new retiree’s memory like the numerous times he helped students through dissecting animals as a part of biology or another science course he was teaching. Some students were less than enthusiastic about cutting animals open and looking inside. Others were more than willing.

“I remember one student in particular that didn’t want to do it, but by the end, they wouldn’t let anyone else touch or do anything with the animal they were working on,” laughed Tweedy.

A resident of Waukon, he commuted to Valley for the majority of the time he worked there. Over the years he figures he has driven over 360,000 miles traveling to work and back. Now that he won’t have to do that anymore and will have significantly more time on his hands, Tweedy plans to stay busy.

“I tell people I resigned, rather than retired, because I will need to have something to keep me busy,” explained the Waukon resident.

He hopes to continue working in an area connected to science and/or agriculture. He may also decide to do some substitute teaching, though he has not decided for sure about that yet. 

He also will get to spend more time with his family. His wife, Deb, continues to work as a science teacher for Allamakee Community School District in Waukon. They have three sons, one of whom is in the military and lives overseas.

As he ends this chapter of his life and begins a new one, the longtime science teacher states that he has really enjoyed working with students, and has especially enjoyed working with his Valley colleagues.

“The people I have worked with have been great, and that also made my time at Valley very enjoyable,” closed Tweedy.

As he moves on to a different part of his life with the beginning of his retirement, Al Tweedy surely leaves behind a number of students and fellow teachers who have been positively influenced through their interactions with him.    

Ellen Rule

Ellen Rule has enjoyed English, speech, and drama since her senior year in high school. It was a desire to continue being involved with those things after high school that eventually led her into a career as an English teacher.

“I sometimes tell people that I originally went to college to put off having to get a job for four more years,” joked the longtime Valley teacher.

It turned out to be much more than that. After 33 years of teaching, 23 of them at Valley, Mrs. Rule recently finished up her last year of teaching and is ready to begin her retirement.

Rule, who began her teaching career at Sumner, graduated from Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids with a major in speech and drama and a minor in English. Although Mrs. Rule worked with speech and drama students while at Sumner, she gave that up and focused mainly on teaching high school-level English courses when she began working at Valley.

“Doing speech and drama required a lot of extra time. I had a 2-year-old daughter then, and my husband traveled a lot with his work. I decided that I wanted to spend time with them as much as I could,” explained Rule.

Rule looks back over her years of teaching and says that what she will remember the most is the interaction and contact with the students and the staff. She has appreciated the opportunity to share knowledge with students and see them grow as a result.

“Watching them go from one level of reading and writing to a higher level or ability has been rewarding for me,” said the rural Arlington resident.

Mrs. Rule also cherishes the relationships that she has formed with colleagues during her years as a teacher at both Sumner and Valley. She hopes to continue those relationships on into her retirement years.

When you work in any area over an extended number of years, there are always changes. Education is no exception, and Ellen has seen change take place during her years as an educator. She believes that technology has brought a lot of change, some good and some bad.
“In one sense it can stifle creativity, as students tend not to use their own ‘mind’s eye’ to imagine something, since an image of almost everything can be found on the Internet. In another sense it has made researching a topic for a paper much easier for students,” commented the former English instructor.

Rule also believes that the family dynamic has changed over the years, which, in turn, has changed the type of students she has seen in the classroom. She understands that with parents working full-time, it has become more difficult to raise children, who have had to become more independent. She also recognizes that it is not an impossible task and has seen that many families in the Valley district have been able to manage it well.

Mrs. Rule has taught at the high school level for her entire career, saying that she prefers the maturity level of high school students as opposed to middle school or junior high students. One of the things she enjoys the most about being a teacher is the interaction with the students. It seems her students appreciated interacting with her, as well, as toward the end of the year a small group of them showed up in her room with a cake and a card, singing “Happy Retirement to You.”

“I really enjoyed and appreciated that,” laughed Rule.

When asked how she will fill her time now that she is retired, Rule responded by saying she is considering doing some substitute teaching. Most of all she is looking forward to the increased freedom. This will allow her to do the things around her house that she has wanted to do but hasn’t been able to find the time for. She also may use her newfound freedom to visit her daughter in Chicago a little more often than she has been able to in the past.  

One of the things that Mrs. Rule will not miss is the paperwork that goes with being a teacher. Reading and grading papers, doing lesson plans, keeping certifications up-to-date and other such duties will now be a thing of the past for Ellen Rule. 

She hopes that this will not be the case with the relationships and friendships that have been built. She is grateful for the experiences she has had and wishes to thank all of the people that she has come into contact with over the years for the memories that have been created. No doubt there are many students, parents, and fellow teachers that wish the same to her as she begins her retirement.

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