Coming to Iola in 1973, Bill Westphal never thought he would be staying, but once he got here he says, “It was like coming home. Before I knew it, I had been here for 10 years.”
Now, after 39 years of teaching at Iola-Scandinavia, Westphal has decided to retire.
“The memories are endless. In fact there are too many to recall,” Westphal said. “Each year, I get more and more, but one thing that does stick out in my mind is burying time capsules with my classes.” He chuckles, “We only recovered one of them, and the others may be a goal of mine in my retirement.”
Reflelcting on the class he taught this past year, Westphal said, “They discovered ’50s and ’60s music. It was not unusual to walk into my room and hear the Four Seasons playing. They would choose that over morning recess and it was a great time for me to get to know the kids in a more relaxed setting.”
As an educator, Westphal said he feels it’s important to go beyond the text book, and reach the students’ emotional needs, as well.
“You have to let the students teach you also. The thing I love about working with students this age is that they are so alive and so able to look at the positive. It’s a wonderful time in their lives and I have truly enjoyed being a part of it,” he said.
“Bill was someone that I could rely on for many things besides being a wonderful teacher,” according to Tess Lecy-Wojcik, who has worked with Westphal for over 30 years. ‘He has helped the staff with injured students, directed students during emergency drills in calm, controlled manner along and also gave insightful comments during professional discussions.”
She described Westphal as a leader on the staff who put people at ease with his humor.
“His students loved him and his stories, as he has always had more to add to a “textbook version” of a social studies lesson. He will be missed,” she said.
“I am very happy with my career,” Westphal said. “I truly loved what I was doing. There was never a day when I did not want to come to work.”
The things that kept Westphal teaching for 39 years are the same things that he will miss the most; the students and faculty.
“We have wonderful kids in our school district. I will miss seeing them from day to day,” he said. “I have enjoyed working with the staff. We really like working together. These are people that care about their students and about the programs. They learn from each other and profit from their successes.”
Westphal admits that coming to the decision to retire was very difficult.
“I really feel like right now I am at the top of my game; the best that I have ever been at teaching,” he says. “I really wrestled with the decision, but the reality is that I am 66 years old. I’m looking forward to just being able to relax, and Sue and I will now be able to do some of the things that we have always wanted to.”
He goes on to say, “I have had parents come to me and tell me that they heard I was retiring and that they are disappointed because the wanted their child in my class. It feels good to know I will be missed, but at the same time, I feel like I am letting them down.”
Westphal said he looks forward to spending more time with his parents and my grandsons, Marcus, 8, and Miles, 6.
“I am also toying around with the idea of writing some books. Maybe, something on the lines of an “Old Yeller” of the 21st century, or even a story about a fictional Iola, and having some fun with that,” he said.
Learning to speak German and playing the piano also topped his list.
As the new school years draws near, Westphal admits, “This fall when that school bell rings, it’s going to be very hard, knowing that I am no longer a part of it.”