Miss Stannye honored at surprise school gathering
By Bert Lehman
When Rexford/Longfellow Elementary School kindergarten teacher Stannye Meads walked into the gym at 1 p.m. on Friday, May 13, she wasn’t expecting the ovation she received.
With a gym full of students, family, friends and co-workers waiting for her, Meads was escorted into the gym. Students and teachers were dressed for the celebration, as the day was being dubbed Dress for Success Day.
Immediately after entering the gym to a chorus of cheers, Meads had a surprised look on her face, not knowing what was happening. The look changed to tears of joys after she realized everyone was cheering for her. They had gathered to surprise her and recognize her for 50 years of teaching, the last 25 in the Clintonville School District.
Afterwards, Meads said she had no idea about the planned surprise celebration, which was surprising to her because she said she is “pretty good at hearing about things.”
“But because Miss Bagstad is always doing wonderful and marvelous things, I just thought it was another one of her things of getting the school together,” Meads said.
She added, “I began to get a little nervous when my class was in here and I wasn’t.”
Tami Bagstad, principal at Rexford/Longfellow Elementary School, told those gathered that she was happy the surprise was kept secret.
“I can not believe Ms. Stannye that you did not find out about this, because she always finds out about everything,” Bagstad told the crowd.
Several people spoke to the crowd as part of the celebration.
“For a school district it’s wonderful to have somebody with the amazing energy that Miss Stannye has, and for that we’ll thank her and keep on thanking her,” said Tom O’Toole, superintendent for the School District of Clintonville.
State Superintendent Tony Evers told the crowd that he had never had the privilege of honoring a teacher who has taught for 50 years.
“The people of Clintonville and all the other places you have gone Miss Stannye have greatly learned from your great teaching, great relationship building, and all the things we expect from excellent teachers,” Evers said.
Dan Orman, who was taught by Meads in 1966 when he was in first grade in Kentucky, made the trip to Wisconsin to be part of the celebration.
“Stannye mixed a brilliant blend of high expectations and compassion,” Orman said. “That is the art of teaching. There are lots of teachers with high expectations, and there are lots of teachers with compassion. There aren’t lots of educators in this world who combine such a massive blend of compassion and high expectations.”
Orman, who went on to become an educator, said Meads taught him to love learning.
At the celebration Clintonville Mayor Lois Bressette declared it Ms. Stannye Day and gave her a key to the city.
Friends and former co-works also said a few words in honor of Meads.
Afterwards Meads said she felt very fortunate.
When asked what she was thinking when everyone was cheering for her, Meads said, “It was such a surprise to see my whole family here. To see how well the children were sitting. I think that meant so much to me, that they were so into it. That made me feel really special.”
She said she never intended to become a teacher, but it has become a rewarding experience.
“I guess I can honestly say I have a real passion for it,” Meads said. “That would be my one piece of advice for anybody getting into education. It’s not a job. It’s a profession you have to have a passion for.”
She added, “The one thing that I can say is when I was interviewed for the position 25 years ago, one question they asked is, ‘Would you rather be teacher of the year, would you rather win a trip to Hawaii or would you rather have the area where you’re working in consider you a great educator?’” I thought, ‘Which one do they want you to say?’ I thought I always wanted the area I was teaching in to think I was an exceptional educator.”
The celebration is something she will never forget.
“It’s probably been the highlight of my life, no matter what happens from now on,” she said.