After I graduated in 1994, teaching positions were difficult to find so I was a substitute teacher for one year before I was able to obtain a teaching job. I was certified in Speech and Drama so let this be a lesson to anyone wanting to go into the teaching biz...make sure you are certified in other areas to cover your rear! The location of the school that offered me my first teaching job was in a tiny little town called Alton. If hindsight were 20/20, I would have been a little more patient because when I was offered the teaching position, I had two more offers come in right after that first one and they were in El Paso, Texas and the other one was right here in my hometown of Kansas City - Independence School District. (OUCH!) But, no…I felt like I made a verbal agreement to teach in Alton. (Yes, it's in Missouri and No, I'm not making this up...it really is a town.) So Jaimee, I and the four girls all packed up and moved to West Plains. (There were some famous people that were born in West Plains: Porter Wagoner, Dick Van Dyke, Jan Howard, and Preacher Roe! Then I'm sure you are now asking...who? who? and who?) It was the first time I have ever left Kansas City so this was going to be rather interesting. We rented a house in a larger town called West Plains, which at first really excited Jaimee because it was an old Victorian home, but little did we know that this home had a secret. Jaimee loves Victorian… well...everything; so being able to rent out this house was her dream come true. Before I had to start teaching, we did have a bit of a bug problem, so we scheduled an exterminator to come out on my first day of school.
A teacher's first day of school is almost as scary as it would be for any student starting their elementary years. The anticipation of what kind of students will you have, are you prepared, do you know the procedures; can all be taxing as a first year teacher. (And...No, I didn't pee my pants, I don't think I did in elementary either.) So my first day went well, and after about a 30 minute drive back to our new rented house; I come home to a very frantic wife who declared..."We have to move out!" Now mind you, my next logical statement was..."We just moved in." However, our bug inspector discovered the house's big secret and it wasn't very pleasant; my wife told me..."The house is infested with Brown Recluse Spiders!" (I'm sure right now every person who hates spiders has now stopped reading this piece.) Of course my Asperger's self couldn't quite understand what Jaimee meant so she clarified..."The Spiders are all between the walls and floor boards!" Honestly, I had never even heard of a Brown Recluse Spider until that day or how dangerous they were for that matter. (You'll have to look them up...they are a nasty thing!) So we promptly moved out of Jaimee's dream home and into a Holiday Inn. The next few days, Jaimee went back to Kansas City with all the girls and I was left to look for a new rental home so I took up residency at Alton's only little motel in town. I wasn't there too long after that, until we did discover another rental home and we stayed there for the two years for the time I served for the school district.
This being my first school took a lot of adjusting because I've been use to big districts with over thousands of students in the building. This was completely different, their middle school was literally a hallway, and their attendance was little over hundred students’ total. The best example I could give you is they were the only district that I knew of that would take a day off for deer season. For that one full week of deer season for rifles, there were very few students in the hallway of the school. While I was there, I actually organized their first assembly that year with some one-acts that the kids did and we put on a full-length play to which Alton hadn't seen in years. We even started a drama club (With T-Shirts!) and sold popcorn cans as a fundraiser. The kids were pretty cool over all, I got the chance to meet a lot of interesting people, but after two years of teaching there, my wife and I thought a change might be in order. Sure enough, through my connection with William Jewell College, my fellow alum was principal for a school district called Pierce City. So we said goodbye to West Plains/Alton and started to pack our things and move.
The Song of Inspiration [Check it out on iTunes!]:
Song: "Through the Fire"
Artist: Day of Fire