Grandparents Day is Sunday, September 10. A day to honor your grandparents for the special place they hold in your life and in your heart. For many it requires connecting from afar. For two St Lawrence teachers this year’s Grandparents Day heralds a school year of togetherness.
Barb Thompson started teaching first grade 52 years ago. Her granddaughter, Cori (Redmond) Pierce, takes charge of her first kindergarten class in December. Not remarkable you say? It is, when you learn grandmother and granddaughter will be teaching side by side in the same school.
Barb teaches first grade at St. Lawrence Catholic School in Milbank. Cori has been hired as the kindergarten teacher at St. Lawrence and begins her duties full time in December. Grandmother and granddaughter will teach in adjacent classrooms with an adjoining door.
It’s going to be nice having her right there to help me,” Cori said. “I’ve already asked her a ton of questions, but it will be nice to learn what I should be teaching and what she will expect of the students next year.” Barb quickly countered with, “And I already need help with my computer and Promethean board. So, I’ll be asking for her help with all this technology stuff.” The pair epitomize the best part of working with and learning from another generation.
As Lucy of the famous Peanuts comic strip says, “We need to study the lives of great women like my grandmother…talk to your own grandmother today… ask her questions. You’ll find she knows more than peanut butter cookies. Thank you!”
And Lucy is correct. Give her a gold star for her insight as Barb is one smart cookie about teaching. She began her career in 1965 teaching first grade in St. Paul. She spent five years as an instructor before she and husband, Leon, decided to begin their family. Barb stopped teaching to be a full time mom. When she decided to return to the classroom, she discovered there were no open teaching positions. So, she enrolled at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota to obtain her special education certificate.
After completing that coursework, she was employed at Verdi Public School in Minnesota and also worked three years as a special education teacher in the Big Stone City School. She was hired as an elementary special education teacher for the Milbank School District in 1988.
Barb retired in 2011 when her special education and reading recovery position was eliminated due to budget cuts. But retirement was fleeting. The next year she tutored students at St. Lawrence and that work evolved into a regular substitute job. Just prior to the 2015-2016 school year, three teaching positions came open. She said, ” I joked about applying, but they took me seriously and gave me an application on the spot.” She was immediately hired as the first grade teacher.
Meanwhile, Cori attended and graduated from Milbank High School in May 2013. She started college courses in accounting and finance. During the summer, she worked with the Milbank Out of School Time Program (OST). Her days spent with that organization helped her better understand herself and her purpose. She said she decided to change her major to elementary education. “I realized I enjoy being with kids.”
Barb says her experience was a little different. “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. From the time I was very young, I would take care of kids in church and teach Sunday School. Leon tells me I am much happier when I am teaching. Teaching and working with kids is my passion.”
But Barb says she cannot take credit for Cori’s career choice. “I don’t think anyone can influence someone to become a teacher. It’s the inner love of children that does it. I wish I could take credit for Cori’s decision, but I can’t. I watched her play and take care of all her nieces and nephews for a long time, so I’m not surprised she chose this path. She is great with kids, and I know she will be a great teacher.”
Cori, who married Wilmot banker Brian Pierce in June, is now in her final semester at Northern State University completing her student teaching requirements in the Wilmot School District. She takes over the kindergarten class at St. Lawrence on December 4.
“St. Lawrence is such a nice atmosphere to work in,” Barb said.”The attitude of loving and caring cannot be matched. It’s a great place for Cori to start her career, and a great place to end mine someday.” As another wise Peanuts character always says, “Life is not about where you go, but who you travel with.” So, if you are lucky enough to have another generation on your journey, today is the perfect day to tell them they are the peanut to your butter, the milk to your cookie, the glaze to your doughnut, the apple to your pie…