Greene County staff closing the books on teaching careers

Congratulations to retiring Greene County Community School District staff

This is the first in a series of questions and answers with the 11 staff retiring from the Greene County Community School District (GCCSD). ~The Scranton Journal

Eric Ernst
Eric Ernst

ERIC ERNST, fourth grade teacher: Eric Ernst has been with the district as a fourth grade teacher for 28 years. He lives in Coon Rapids with his wife Denise. They are parents of three adult sons, Matt, Alex, and Tyler. Prior to GCCSD, he taught four years at Exira Community Schools.

What did you like best about your most recent position? I most enjoyed the experiences I had with the kids. They made every day a new adventure. It was also great to share that time with my colleagues, especially Karen Murphy, Julie Karber, Joelle White and Ken Morlan.

What will you miss the most about your job once you are retired? I’ll miss the day-to-day interaction with the young people. They kept me on my toes, made me laugh, gave me challenges, and gave me a reason to try and be the best teacher I could be.

What is a favorite school memory to share? While I was teaching in Scranton, the fourth grade team came up with a walking program called W.A.L.K.S. (Walking and Learning Kids Succeed). We walked with our students weekly to build their stamina and endurance. It was also a nice way to visit with them informally. In May, the entire fourth grade walked from Scranton to Jefferson. It was an awesome experience!

What are your plans and dreams for your retirement years? I will continue to work, though I don’t know where or how much at this time. I hope it will be as fulfilling as teaching has been. It will also provide me with more time to spend with my boys. I’m ready for a new adventure.

Anything else you would like to add? I want to thank the Greene County School District for giving me the opportunities to work with their young people, and thanks to all of the staff for their support.

Diane Kunzler
Diane Kunzler

DIANE KUNZLER, high school art teacher: Diane Kunzler lives in Glidden and has been with the GCCSD for 27 years, of which the last 16 were spent as the high school art teacher. For nine years of that time, she also taught Early Bird college art classes for high school art students through Iowa Central Community College. Previously, Kunzler taught elementary art at Scranton for 11 years, and most of those years were shared with the East Greene school district as a junior high and high school art teacher.

Prior to GCCSD, Kunzler taught art in Stockton, MO, Van Meter, and at South Clay in Gillette Grove.

Kunzler’s son and daughter-in-law  live in Columbus, OH, and have two children. Her daughter and son-in-law  live in Des Moines and have a daughter.

What did you like best about your most recent position? I love teaching the high school students because so many of them are incredibly talented and so focused on their work. They want to learn and are willing to put in the work necessary to be successful. I like that I can talk to them about important art and life concepts and they are interested and ready to learn. I also love seeing how art helps them discover who they are as people and how it helps them grow into strong and independent adults.

What will you miss the most about your job once you are retired? I’ll miss the students and the other dedicated adults with whom I teach. It was nice coming to school each day and getting to talk about and share something I love, art, with others.

What is a favorite school memory to share? This is difficult as there are many great memories but probably the one that stands out the most and had the most impact on me as a professional was the two-week summer art class I taught a few years ago. Students were given an opportunity to take an art class that was student and teacher directed that would meet seven hours a day, for two weeks straight. Fourteen students came. Attendance was taken but no late notes from parents were required if you were late or had to leave early. If a student had a conflict like a doctor’s appointment, they were free to come and go as they needed.

Students worked in a relaxed and productive atmosphere. It was just amazing to see. The class would be over at 4:30 and most days I had to kick them out at 5 or 5:30 to go home. It was enough to really renew your faith in this generation and their interest in learning. It was one of my favorite teaching experiences because everyone was there because they wanted to be there and was learning because they wanted to learn. It was an incredible experience for me as an educator. I applaud the students for their work ethic and desire to learn.

What are your plans and dreams for your retirement years? I have a studio in Des Moines and I plan on painting full time. I hope to get a good gallery to represent me and be able to support that gallery with work. I adjunct teach at Iowa Central Community College and I will continue with that as well as other short-term teaching opportunities that present themselves. I teach pastel workshops and painting classes several places around the state and will continue to do that. Another thing I would love to do is be a docent at the Des Moines Art Center. I am sure I have enough interests to stay busy!

Anything else you would like to add? Thank you to the students, parents, and the districts I have been privileged to work with, I have truly appreciated the support you have shown me and the opportunity to work with you and for you. It has been a real pleasure to spend the majority of my teaching career working here in Greene County.

Gerry Stein
Gerry Stein

GERRY STEIN, middle school science teacher and coach: Gerry Stein of Jefferson has been with GCCSD for 29 years in many roles, including middle school science teacher, middle school cross country coach, eighth grade boys’ track coach, seventh grade boys’ basketball coach, and high school assistant football coach.

In the years prior, Stein worked at Sutherland Community Schools (now South O’Brien) for five years as a science teacher with coaching duties for varsity and junior varsity girls’ basketball, middle school girls’ track, high school varsity baseball, middle school baseball, and middle school football.

Stein and his wife Carri have three daughters: one attends Drake University, one attends Grand View University, and one attends Greene County High School.

What did you like best about your most recent position? I enjoyed the interactions with the seventh and eighth grade students in both class and activities. It was very rewarding to share my knowledge of life science and earth science with the middle school students.

What will you miss the most about your job once you are retired? The opportunity to teach students life science content and earth science content and help them see the relevance and importance of science in their lives. It was very rewarding to help students develop and improve their learning skills for high school, college, and career.

What is a favorite school memory to share? One of my favorite units to teach was vertebrates. It was during this unit we set up the incubator and hatched chickens and ducks to coincide with lessons on birds. 

What are your plans and dreams for your retirement years? I plan to work, fulltime or part-time, depending on what employment opportunities become available.

Anything else you would like to add? I would like to thank all who have expressed gratitude and given me positive comments through the years.

Becky Greiner
Becky Greiner

BECKY GREINER, high school band director: Becky Greiner of Jefferson has been the high school band director for 26 years. Previously, she spent five years as the 5-12 band director at Paton-Churdan. Greiner and her husband Alan, and have a daughter who lives in Urbandale and a son who attends the University of Northern Iowa.

What did you like best about your most recent position? The students! I loved working with them every day in every capacity. Through every activity – marching, solo and ensemble contest, All-State, jazz, concert band, and pep band – the students were the best. 

What will you miss the most about your job once you are retired? The students and practicing with them.

What is a favorite school memory to share? I have so many memoires, but my memories of All-State auditions will probably last for a long time. The 62 All-State students were awesome, but the many more students who also worked so hard, were alternates, were recalled, or just practiced the many hours will never be forgotten.

What are your plans and dreams for your retirement years? I am open to a new career or opportunity!

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