Retired Wapakoneta Elementary School teacher Jean Turner is surrounded by students, from left to right, Tyler Cox, Destiny Comer, Lirassa Westerbeck-Kiefer, Elizabeth Johnson, and Ethan Brooks prior to the last day of school.
Teaching is a long-standing tradition in Jean Turner’s family.
The Wapakoneta Elementary School teacher, who recently retired after 35 years, said her grandmother taught in the Buckland building when it was new. It’s the same place Turner started her career.
Other family members through the years have followed suit, with some continuing to teach in the area.
As for why Turner pursued a teaching career, she said she loves helping children learn, especially those who may struggle.
“I love to watch kids’ faces light up when they get it and understand, especially kids who have difficulty learning things because they have to work the hardest,” Turner said. “It’s worth all the struggles to hear them say, ‘I really love to read,’ when all of a sudden they get it after all their hard work.”
Turner said with those struggling students she has worked with most recently, as a teacher she had to understand where they were coming from, that they weren’t going to be the children who stick their hands up all the time and may have some discipline problems.
She underwent her own training and classes to best help those students and with them every day she would exercise in the morning, drink lots of water and suck on mints — some techniques recommended to her — among other ideas.
Through the years, Turner taught kindergarten, first, second, and pre-second grades, in addition to Title I reading, with years spent at Centennial and Wapakoneta elementary schools in addition to Buckland.
Turner said second-grade was her favorite because when she told a joke, they got it.
“At that age, they are sponges and took in everything, and they were still young enough to think I knew everything,” Turner said.
She wasn’t planning to retire when she did, but with changes at the state and local level, she decided it was time.
“If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have,” Turner said of retirement.
While she has plans to fill her days, Turner said she will miss the children and hearing them say “Hi Mrs. Turner” in the halls as well as adult staff members, who have become good friends.
“I think I’m going to miss it a lot, but I will be subbing, although that will be completely different because it won’t be mine anymore,” Turner said.
Originally from Kossuth, Turner now lives on a farm east of Waynesfield that has been in her husband, Steve’s, family for three generations.
The two of them plan to spend some of her new found free time together, as they continue to help advise the Waynesfield All-Around Livestock 4-H Club, which they have been active in — him for 40 years and her for 36. Turner continues to attend 4-H camp every year with the children and spend time during summer months helping them get their projects ready for the fair.
Although Jean and her husband began taking less active roles several years ago, now that their son, Kevin, and his wife, Amy, are advisers, and their grandchildren, Brooke, Caleb and Emily, are getting ready to become 4-H members themselves, the proud grandparents expect to be as involved as ever.
Turner also is starring as the Cowardly Lion in Waynesfield Goshen Muchinippi Community Theater’s performance of The Wizard of Oz at the end of the month. It is her fourth year to act in such a performance and something she enjoys.
She and her husband also plan to travel to Hawaii this winter.