I had just completed another interview. It was the spring of 1989, and I had driven all over the state from South Haven to LeRoy to Winfield to Scott City to Jetmore to Ness City, and Horton to name a few.
So, I traipsed down the flight of stairs in the dorm to the payphone and set up the interview. Yes, a payphone. Back when we had to use a calling card and everyone around us could hear the conversation.
I was drained. Missing too many classes and filling up the Olds Calais on a daily basis. But I needed a job, for I was graduating with an English education degree.
I'm not sure what made me apply at Cheney. Was it the visit to the district's booth at the Fort Hays job fair when Russ Busenitz and I drove out there from Tabor College one spring day? No one else went, and there were other potential teachers graduating that spring. Why were we the only two to go?
|where it all began|
But I went ahead and called USD 268 to set-up the interview. It was for Friday, May 5, 1989. I don't remember seeing any students or athletes around, so the interview must have been later in the day. Maybe I requested that time, so I wouldn't miss anymore classes.
My interview began with the 7-12 principal, Dick Wells. No relation to the school's superintendent, Don Wells. This was back when principals and superintendents interviewed the teachers, not a team of potential colleagues (although the Winfield interview was done in that manner due to the team-teaching nature of the position).
|what a jewel, this note from Jim Gillett on day one|
The current literature teacher, Theo Voth, was going to be the 7-12 librarian, so that's why there was an opening. I was reassured she'd be able to guide me if I needed help. Theo also taught public speaking, which the district called oral communications due to certification issues. Since she would be taking over the yearbook, they wanted me to have the public speaking duties. I never got to meet Theo during the interview, but I did get introduced to co-workers, Paula Voth and Jack Goss.
|school year #1: 1989-90|
Sup't. Don Wells also wanted me to get certified to teach speech, something that would require more college classes. This was almost a deal breaker for me. It had already taken me five years to get the degree I had because I'd changed my major my sophomore year.
But I liked the small school atmosphere of Cheney, the proximity of the classrooms, the size of the town, and its closeness to Wichita where my sister Brenda lived. I agreed, that if offered the position, I would do my best to get as many hours as I could towards that speech certification.
Mr. Wells wrapped up the interview by assigning me an essay. I do not remember the topic. He handed me his pen and told me to sit in his chair behind his desk. We said our goodbyes, and I was to leave when done.
No other interviewer had asked me to do that. It didn't phase me a bit. I had been editor of our college newspaper for two years, so I welcomed the chance show him one of my strengths. I sure would like a copy of what I wrote. Maybe it's in my personnel file.
I had not worn my typical interview outfit that day. Was I tired of it? Was it even clean? Instead, I wore a crisp white oxford type shirt and a black and white skirt. It wasn't new. And after I landed this job, my sentimental nature kept me from giving it to charity until many years later.
|That interview outfit: me on the right. |
I'm with college pals Julie & Teresa in 1983.
The only picture I've taken with Santa.
I called my sister from the payphone in the southwest corner of the Jim's Foodliner parking lot. I love telling students there used to be a payphone there.
We met on the west side. I remember telling Brenda that I liked Cheney, but there was one teacher I met, a long black-haired lady, and she was quite the whipper-snapper.
Yes, that was my first impression of Paula Voth. Don't worry, I told Paula this story when she retired.
I began fantasizing about having an apartment in west Wichita and driving to work in Cheney. I'd be all grown-up and on my own. Making my own money. Dad would not be telling me what to do.
And that could have happened because Cheney did offer me the job. And I did accept it. And I did go back to take some classes that summer at Wichita State University. Interpersonal communications and introduction to radio and television. Spending more money to make money. Isn't that the saying? But once my Cheney job started, I did not live in Wichita. Cheney became my home.
|in the dorm signing the teaching contract|
In fact, I didn't even get to pick out my first apartment. Dad, Mom, and Brenda did that. They drove to Cheney during the weekend of my graduation, found me a one-bedroom apartment, and put down a deposit. They saw Wilma Brandes walking among the Jefferson Condos on 2nd Street. I learned later that she was Theo's aunt. Wilma got them in touch with Stan and Darlene Woolf who owned the unit. The rest is history.
When my family came to Hillsboro on graduation day and told me this, can you imagine me being okay with that? I can't either, but I guess I was. One less thing to worry about.
That's how it all began.
Whenever I'm returning to Cheney from Wichita and arrive at the top of St. Joe Road, there's rarely a time I don't recall that day. The day I first drove over that hill. Thirty years ago today.
It's a beautiful scene.
The little town in the valley.