Assistant Managing Editor
A career teaching and later serving as principal of a local elementary school, Dave Tester said, was both what he expected and hoped to do.
“I loved teaching for all those years,” said Tester, who spent his last day as principal of Cridersville Elementary School on Friday. “It was always great to get to know a class and spend the entire year with them and see them grow.
“As principal, I have continued to enjoy working with kids and have always really enjoyed working with staff, parents and the community,” he said.
The graduate of Bowling Green State University said his mother was the most influential person in his pursuing a career in education.
She was a physical education teacher at St. Joseph High School for several years before going back to college and earning her elementary education degree and teaching at Centennial and Northridge elementary schools.
Tester’s first job was teaching fifth- and sixth-grade at Jackson Center Local Schools in 1980.
He left there in 1982 for a job with Wapakoneta City Schools and he has been here ever since, first teaching first- and second-grade students at Centennial School and then fourth-grade students at Northridge. During that time he earned his master’s degree and principal’s certificate at the University of Dayton and was hired as principal at Cridersville Elementary School starting with the 1996-97 school year.
In both teaching and serving as principal, Tester said he loved working with children.
As principal at Cridersville, he continued to teach a guided reading group because it gave him the opportunity to keep involved in what he went into education for — the children.
“In my years at Cridersville, I truly loved being a part of a fantastic staff,” Tester said. “I have never been around a more dedicated group of people — they work so hard for kids.
“If I have been successful as a principal, it is because I have had the best staff you could ask for — and they made me look good,” he said. “We truly got along with each other at Cridersville — it was like one big family — and being with all of them is one of the things I will miss very much.”
Tester said he also had great support from parents and the community.
“Their support of both me and my staff is one of the things that over the years made our school so successful,” Tester said, citing the relationships he developed during his 17 years at Cridersville are what he will miss most.
He also said he will miss being part of Wapakoneta City Schools’ administrative team, many of whom through the years have become not only co-workers but good friends.
Tester took pride in the elementary being recognized several times as an Ohio School of Promise by the Ohio Department of Education.
“It always made me proud when we received that award because I think that recognition made our staff feel good and was a nice reward and validation for all the hours and hours they put in,” Tester said. “It also was a great example of what could happen when students, staff, parents and community came together,” he said.
Tester said he also was proud of what the school was able to accomplish in developing its Guided Reading program, a program at the core of the school today. Bowling Green City Schools, as well as classes from Ohio State University Lima, have come to Cridersville to study and learn about the program because of its success.
“Our teachers and staff got it started, continued to grow it, and made it into a program that helps kids become not only good readers, but helps them develop a love of reading,” Tester said. “That’s something the entire staff should be proud of.”
What he said he won’t miss is when students got into trouble and having to deal with it.
“Obviously, parents don’t like getting that phone call any more than I like making it,” Tester said. “However, I will say that in the majority of cases over the years, parents were very supportive of my decisions, even if it meant their child was in some trouble.”
Taking Tester’s place at the helm of the school is Misty Baker, whom Tester helped train.
“I am thrilled that she is taking over for me as principal,” Tester said. “Our staff is very excited that she will be their new leader and she is very excited as well.
“She works extremely hard and I am sure she will do a great job,” he said. “She is the type of person that gets along with everyone. She will fit right into her new role and I’m sure get great support from our staff and parents.”
Like so many others, Tester said his decision to retire now was because of changes being made to the State Teachers Retirement System.
As he retired, students and staff pooled their money to buy a tree and engrave a rock in his honor to stand together in front of the school.
Tester said he was overwhelmed when he was called outside and the entire school was waiting to present them to him.
Cridersville Village Council also recognized Tester at their May meeting and gave him a plaque naming May 31 “Dave Tester Day” in the village.
He said it was also so nice to receive many good wishes from parents and former students as his time at Cridersville wound down.
“Those wishes will always be remembered,” Tester said.
Beginning Sept. 1, Tester will be working part time at Wright State University’s Lake Campus, going around to area schools and supervising college students studying to become teachers.
He said he is excited about staying in the field of education and is also keeping his eyes open for other part-time work, because at 54, he wants to say busy.
Tester said he does plan on spending more time with Trina, his wife of 33 years, and will be busy with his family, as his son Scott, who works for Oregon State University, is marrying Jen Fagering, a first-grade teacher, on July 5, in Seattle, and his son Matthew, who works for Planes Moving and Storage, is marrying Lauren Di Nuoscio, who works for Express Scripts, on Sept. 7, in Cincinnati.
“We are very excited about those two events happening in the same year and are thrilled to be adding two great girls to our family,” Tester said.
He also said he is looking forward to just hanging out with his wife at their Wapakoneta home with their cats, Nellie and Kenzie, and their big dog, Bud.
“It’s been a great career,” Tester said. “Wapak City Schools have been very good to us. Looking back, I am so lucky that I ended up at Cridersville Elementary.
“I’ve told people in the past that Cridersville School is the best kept secret around,” he said. “Hopefully over these past years, we have done a good job getting that secret out and letting everyone know what a special school it is.”