A personal comment by Erik Shupe
As the school year kicks off I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I miss being a part of it. For those of you that may not know, I spent the last 11 years as a teacher at MJSHS. Of course I miss it. If I hadn’t enjoyed teaching I would have left within the first five years as most young teachers do. I loved teaching and I loved the people I worked with and the students I taught. Honestly, I have been busy enough that I hadn’t thought too much about it until this past weekend when I attended Jim Macy’s funeral. Mr. Macy spent his life teaching until 1991 when he suffered a stroke. After that he spent the rest of his life cheering for and supporting his grandkids and the students at MJSHS. Chances are if you attended an activity at MJSHS you saw Jim and his wife Ruth there watching their grandchildren and enjoying the students. So it was no surprise to see so many people at his funeral to celebrate his life. The Macys have touched a lot of lives through their participation and support of our schools.
It reminded me that our schools really are the heart of our small communities. The vitality of our communities is tied directly to the health of our schools. When I speak of vitality I’m not talking about funding. I’m referring to things like participation, enthusiasm, and connectivity. Our schools and their activities bring us together and allow us to cheer for a common cause. They unite us. Likewise, the efforts of our communities affect the health of our schools. Simple things like attending and supporting school functions, participating in our local booster clubs, and expecting our kids to be respectful and hardworking in school determine how well our schools function. I really do believe in the benefits of small town living and I see our schools as the number one marketing tool not just for outsiders, but for those students who can and will leave after school. The experiences that they take away from their time in school and the connectivity they feel to their community through those experiences will hopefully convince them to someday return. To have a community support you instead of just family and a few friends in the stands separates us from larger metropolitan areas. That sense of community is something we are inherently built for. Whether we want to admit it or not, it is a competition, and one we must win in order to keep our small towns viable.
There is something very special about being connected to our community as a teacher. I enjoyed it while I had it and I am looking forward to supporting our schools in a different capacity. As the 2013-2014 school year begins, I would encourage our communities to invest time and energy in supporting our students, staff, and athletes throughout the year. In my mind you can’t find a better return on an investment than what we will receive from a healthy school system.