Teaching began as a girl for retiree

A teacher who recently retired from Wapakoneta Elementary School after 35 years began her career long before that, helping her dolls learn to read.

“I always pretended I was a teacher,” said Melanie Webb this week, on her first day off the job in all these years. “I lined up my doll babies and made up worksheets. I had this big chalk board where I would write lesson plans.”

Webb said in part it was an admiration of her grandmother, Margrete Erb, who taught in a one-room school house, which inspired her to become a teacher.

Through her years in the Wapakoneta City Schools, Webb taught second-, third- and fourth-grades, as well as art, intervention, ESL (English as a second language) and Title I reading.

“All the different assignments were fun,” Webb said. “I made the best out of whatever I was given and was always up for a challenge.”

She started teaching in 1977 at United Local School, where she and her husband, Don Webb, attended classes when they were youths. Through the years she moved between buildings spending time also at Centennial, Northridge and finally Wapakoneta elementary schools before she retired.

Webb received her bachelor’s degree from Ohio Northern University a few months before her employment began and spent that time substitute teaching. She earned her master’s degree from Bowling Green State University in 1981.

In 2003, she achieved National Board Certification, an advanced teaching credential designed to recognize effective and accomplished teachers who meet high standards.

“It’s a very hard process, for which you have to apply to get into, but it makes you a stronger teacher,” Webb said. “I wanted to do it to better myself.”

Webb said making the decision to retire was a difficult one for her as she always enjoyed the children and finding ways to help them learn and found the work she did very rewarding.

Specifically, Webb said Title I reading was close to her heart because she always felt there had to be ways to help students struggling in that area.

“It was a challenge to come up with ways to help them learn and I liked that,” Webb said.

“Without learning to read, everything is tougher,” she said of the importance of the subject. “When they worked hard and reached success, to see the smiles on their faces and pride in their hearts was so awesome.”

While Webb always enjoyed what she did working with children, she said changes in education made her decide it might be time to retire.

“I wanted to stop while I still thought I was good at it,” Webb said.

As she looks forward to her retirement, Webb said she plans to work on her large garden and spend more time canning. She plans to travel and hopes to reach her bucket list destination of Hawaii. In August, she and her mother are taking a trip to Cape Cod, Mass.

Webb said she also is looking forward to spending time with her son, Adam, and his wife, Jessica, after he returns from several months of service with the Army National Guard in Afghanistan and to visiting her daughter, Courtney, in Illinois, more frequently.

Eventually, she may get back into substitute teaching.

“It would be nice to still help in that way,” Webb said.

Looking back on her years teaching, Webb said it not only was rewarding to work with the students when they were in her class, but to follow them through their lives. She even had some of her students’ children in her class before her retirement.

“I’m very proud of how they have grown up,” Webb said.