Ken Plum: Learning from my own education

kenplum2My high school alma mater, Shenandoah High School, is no longer a high school. The building with an addition is now Shenandoah Elementary School. Children who would have attended the high school now attend the consolidated Page County High School. The memories and legacies of the school continue through the Shenandoah High School Alumni Association that was organized in 1939 making it the longest continuous high school alumni association in the state. The 76th Annual Shenandoah High School Alumni Banquet held last week recognized two living members from the class of 1935 among its guests.

My graduating class had 41 members with about half attending our Class of 1960 reunion party before the banquet. Three of our teachers also attended including Mrs. Foltz who taught me to type, an invaluable skill for which I thanked and assured her that I still keep my fingers on the home keys. Mrs. Kite was my guidance counselor who gave me the unheard of idea that I like others could attend college. No one else in my family ever had.

Last week was teacher appreciation week, and after having attended the alumni banquet I could not stop thinking about the teachers I had and the impact they had on me. All my teachers deserve a shout out, but with limited space I will mention just a few. Mrs. Yates was my first grade teacher and the very first teacher I ever met. She continues to be an angel in my mind.

Second grade teacher Ms. Rau and third grade teacher Ms. Parker were young and very beautiful. I could not do enough to please them. Ms. Parker especially opened my mind to the world as she talked about places she had visited. I remembered her talk about the “painted desert” when I visited there years ago. Mr. Kite fostered my love of history. I still have the dozen-page report I wrote for his class in the 11th grade. In those dozen pages I wrote a “Short History of Page County” while it took historian Harry Strickler several hundred pages to do the same thing. Mrs. Boozer who was my senior year government teacher promoted my interest in government. I still quote statistics I gathered in writing a paper for her on the misuse of the absentee ballot in Virginia. And as boring as it became at the time I still appreciate the diagramming of sentences that Mr. Turner made us do. It continues to help me with sentence construction. Mr. McHenry’s wood working and metal working shop taught me problem solving skills that I continue to use.

Public schools did so much for me. That’s why I work hard to ensure that our schools are the best they can be and that teachers who are the keys in the process get support. We must make sure that students have positive learning experiences they can look back on and that create in them an ongoing desire to learn.

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

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