Teachers will miss camaraderie, routines of school, but most of all, students

Teachers will miss camaraderie, routines of school, but most of all, students

By Steven Spearie
The State Journal-Register

Posted May 24, 2020 at 8:37 PM
Updated May 24, 2020 at 8:38 PM

Becky Martin was known for her mobile pantry during her teaching career at Lanphier High School.

Fruit snacks, granola bars, Pop Tarts. The food was free for her English students if they were hungry or needed an energy boost, but other students were just as likely to wander into her classroom in search of a snack.

Martin, who retires from Springfield School District 186 after 13 years at Lanphier as an English teacher and 26 years overall, said the idea for the pantry came from a then-colleague at the Sangamon County Learning Academy, a program operated by the Sangamon-Menard Regional Office of Education for non-traditional and truant students in the county.

The colleague told Martin that students who came to class hungry weren’t going to do their work, so he put a pantry in his classroom to address the situation.

“That made sense to me, so I did that at (the Learning Academy) and Lanphier,” Martin said. “I’m going to save a a lot of money when I retire.”

Martin and others from District 186 who are putting a capstone on their careers never envisioned this is the way they would go out. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and students have been absent from their classrooms and students since March 13. The district later implemented remote learning, but a whole host of in-person ceremonies and end-of-year rituals have gone by the boards.

For teachers like Martin, there’s the added dimension of walking away from the classroom for good without formally being reunited with their students.

“It’s awful (the way it ended),” Martin admitted. “I teach all seniors. There’s no closure.”

“I was prepared to go out with a bang, but it feels like I’m going out with a whimper,” admitted Sherry Frachey, a support services teacher at Iles School, who is finishing a 43-year teaching career this spring.

A Facebook thread on which Frachey talked about her plight as a teacher during the pandemic caught the attention of PBS NewsHour. Frachey admitted during a national broadcast with New York City-based mental health expert Dr. Sudeepta “Sue” Varma that she was “grieving” over the experience.

Frachey later said that while a lot of conversation is centered around the mental health of students, little is being talked about concerning teachers.

The outpouring of support from teachers from across the country, Frachey admitted, was uplifting.

“It made me realize that I was part of a fraternity of teachers,” said Frachey, 62, who has spent 19 years at Iles, where she was the student support leader. “That was special.

“It’s sad because I physically miss being with the students. I miss that camaraderie, that collegiality (with teachers).”

Frachey started teaching in the Head Start program before moving on to City Day School and then District 186 in 1987, teaching at Webster and Fairview elementary schools before moving on to Iles.

Born into a theatrical family, Frachey appeared in her first television commercial at age 5 and was “raised” at The Muni Opera, the Springfield Theatre Guild (now The Legacy Theatre) and New Salem Theatre in the Park.

Frachey was known to put lessons to songs or raps and sometimes gave instructions to her students “in character” from one of her theatre productions — Mrs. Brill from “Mary Poppins” or Miss Trunchbull from “Matilda,” for instance.

“Students remember that,” Frachey said.

Carol Draper, who is retiring after 20 years with the district most recently as a math teacher at Jefferson Middle School, said the value of education was always reinforced in her home, especially by her father, the late Harry Draper, who spent 25-plus years with the Springfield Police Department and was part of the detail who guarded the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during his visit to the city in 1963.

A three-sport athlete at Bradley University, Draper’s education was geared toward working with elementary and middle school students when she took courses in dealing with students with special needs.

Part of her teaching career at Washington and Jefferson middle schools was with that student population.

“My goal was to reach as many kids as I could,” said Draper, 65. “That gave me confidence that it was the right thing to do.”

Draper also had a career as a nurse, working in orthopedics and in the emergency room at Memorial Medical Center and HSHS St. John’s Hospital. She taught for 10 years in California and at St. Patrick’s Grade School in Springfield where she was mentored by Sister Marcelline Koch, a Springfield Dominican.

“I’ll miss the routine, the activities at school, the things that go along with a teacher’s day,” Draper said. “I’ll miss the tremendous people in the math department at Jefferson.

“It’s time I want to be able to enjoy life and I don’t have the energy I used to, though I have great health.”

Frachey said she’s exploring working on a doctorate program that would focus on students in the classrooms who face obstacles like family dysfunction, domestic violence or absence of parents or guardians because of a divorce or family separation.

Frachey credits Superintendent Jennifer Gill and the District 186 cabinet for integrating social/emotional learning into the classroom.

“When I see kids post on Facebook that they’re college graduates or better adjusted or ready to contribute to society, that’s a payoff money can’t buy,” Frachey said.

Becky Martin had stops at Rochester, Webster Elementary and Illini Central before Lanphier.

Martin, 60, recalled subbing at Lanphier, called in because the students had driven the other sub out.

“I had no problems with them,” Martin said. “The kids were great. They were very accommodating and compassionate.”

At Sangamon County Learning Academy, Martin said, the policy was that it didn’t accept incomplete work. It became a mantra of sorts for Martin.

“I told (the students), ‘Don’t make my job easy,’” she said.

Martin said the best part of education was when students resisted reading, then found a book that grabbed them.

“The transformative power of language, it’s a powerful thing,” she said.

Contact Steven Spearie: 622-1788, sspearie@sj-r.com, twitter.com/stevenspearie.

District 186 list of retiring teachers and administrators:

Charlotte Black, literacy coach, Lee School; Joleen Booth, SIG curriculum specialist, Matheny-Withrow; Joseph Bothel, science, Washington Middle School; Connie Bourland, Early Childhood/Child Find, SSS-Graham; Patricia Chiles, second grade, Laketown Elementary; Lisa Connolley, administrative intern, Grant Middle School; Carol Draper, math, Jefferson Middle School; Kathleen Fetter, third grade, Marsh Elementary; Sherry Frachey, student support leader, Iles Elementary; Kathryn Gebhardt, first grade, Hazel Dell; Kelly Goldberg, instrumental music, Springfield High; Corrina Griffiths, reading, Hazel Dell; Jill Grove, coordinator of culture and leadership, Administrative Center; Nancy Grove, Early Start, Early Learning Center; Kathleen Hulcher, principal, Matheny-Withrow; Julie Hulvey, art, Feitshans Elementary; Sharon Jones, kindergarten, Hazel Dell; Martha Jordan, first grade, Graham Elementary; Sara Killebrew, kindergarten, Butler Elementary; Jeanette Krofchick, literacy coach, Southern View; Virginia Markey, ES instructional leader, Early Learning Center; Becky Martin, English, Lanphier; Robert Mitchell, art, Lincoln/Travel; Vicki Oldani, German, Southeast High School; Deborah Ratz, literacy, Lanphier High School; Janice Reed, alternative education, Lawrence; Timothy Ruyle, fifth grade, Wilcox Elementary; Lori Shafer, second grade, Hazel Dell; Joan Shea-Rogers, special education, Lanphier; Kimberly Siltman, coordinator of pre-K grograms, Early Learning Center; Derrick Williams, assistant principal, Springfield High School; Jacqueline Yoho, speech pathologist, SSS-Graham

Source: District 186