Happy Holidays, everyone!

This has been a year of ups and downs, but above all else it has been busy.  At the beginning of the year our school was evaluated by the North Central Association, and we spent most of January getting ready for the evaluators and going through the process itself.

Then it was time for speech season, which was highlighted by a major blizzard on the day of state contest.  Garrigan offered to host a make-up contest for the schools in our area.  We had less than a week to prepare, but it came off remarkably well.  Our efforts were rewarded, too, when two of our students were named outstanding performers.

In addition to speech I've been working with the quiz bowl team this year.  This has rather suddenly become quite a major activity.  I'm working with twenty-four students--more than we've had in speech in recent years.  Last spring we went to two tournaments (one of which we nearly missed due to another snow storm), and this year we'll participate in at least five different tournaments.  One of these was a tournament we hosted ourselves for Catholic high schools in the area.  Garrigan took second, which I felt was good for an inexperienced team.  There's a lot of time involved in organizing and practicing with the team, but the kids are eager, and I do enjoy working with them.

School got out May 29, and I left the next day to go to school myself.  I spent the summer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, as a student in the Summer Institute in Graduate Education at the University of Southern Mississippi.  It's an intensive honors program that allows you to get a master's degree in just two summers.  After a period of panic adjusting to being a student again after such a long lapse, I ended up doing very well academically (4.00).  I also had more fun than I've had in a long time.  Hattiesburg is conveniently close to both the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, and I spent nearly as much time "vacationing" as I did in class.  I also got to know some very good friends, and we had lots of fun together.  Except for the cost (which I'll be paying off well into the future), it was a wonderful summer.

I got back just in time to catch my breath before school started again.  This year I have a new class, Math V.  We originally intended to start teaching this next year--to a group of bright kids we had accelerated.  There was interest this year, though, so I agreed to try things out with a handful of kids, and I'm kind of glad to have a chance to work out the kinks before teaching it to a full-sized group.

This fall has also been odd in that I have a whole new group of students who aren't freshmen.  I've taught both the juniors and seniors for almost their whole time in high school, and I've gotten to know and really like both classes.  This year I have 46 of our 50 sophomores, most of whom I had never even met before, and it has been strange getting to know them.  I still don't feel close to that class like I do with the others, but at least I know the kids' names now.

I've got one more outside duty this fall, too; I'm moderator of our student council.  While I enjoy working with the kids, this is one job that has taken far more time than I ever imagined it would.  I've been responsible for organizing the Homecoming festivities (which we planned around the theme "Saturday Night Live"), our magazine sales fundraiser (and all the various class parties that are awards from that), leadership conferences, charity collections, and the various day-to-day activities of the student government.  I knew nothing about what I was doing when I started this, and I've probably done twice as much work as I needed to because of that.  I'm getting the hang of things now, though; the real trick is getting kids to do the work rather than just doing it myself.

Aside from school my big activity this fall has been community theatre.  I'm Bob Cratchit in this year's production of A Christmas Carol, and we've had a very busy rehearsal schedule.  In addition to the actual performances I played Bob as part of a "live Christmas card" window in a promotion the downtown merchants put on to kick off the holiday season.  I also got to fill in for Scrooge on the community theatre float in our local band day parade.  Between that and the speech team, I've had my picture in the local paper more than I've ever had before.

The Algona Upper Des Moines is nothing compared to my brother Steve's news, though.  His success in going back to college has made him Luther's nominee for USA Today's salute to outstanding students.  In addition to his studies, he is now working weekend nights at a convenience store; and he, Terry, and Chris all work at the Viking Theater and Video Warehouse.

John and Janet are as busy as ever.  The Peace Pipe Players, their local community theatre, celebrated their twentieth anniversary this year with a reprise of their first show, Anything Goes.  Margaret and I went over to Maquoketa to see both John and Janet perform in a wonderful show.  John is still teaching at Andrew, where they're working hard to keep the school viable in this age of budget cuts.

My sister Margaret studied in Spain this summer, along with my brother Paul.  I got a series of postcards from them while I was in Mississippi.  While her job at Cresco is technically still par-time, Margaret has a very full load this fall--more than most people at Garrigan.  She bought a new computer this summer and has been spending a lot of her spare time getting used to it.

Paul and Nancy are also busy.  While there were some problems in getting their son Timothy into kindergarten, it is very clear that he is smart as a whip.  In fact, he has taught himself to read--which is more than a lot of adults can say.  It's hard for me to believe it, but Rachel--who was born the year I started teaching--is now in third grade.  She's working hard, and she's managed to stay in the top groups in her classes.

I saw many of the Burrow relatives at an impromptu reunion at the Sumner cemetery on Memorial Day, and the Millers at a more formal get-together on Labor Day in Iowa City.  Everybody seems well, and it was good to see the family.

I battled an ice storm on the way back from Aunt Alaire's at Thanksgiving, the third major storm we've had this season.  A lot of people may be upset by a hard winter, but I actually found it oddly nice.  I've felt kind of down this fall, and the storm was a welcome sign of the start of the holiday season.  When I got home, got out the decorations, and put on the Christmas music, there was a sense of nostalgia and happiness.  Things got even better when I went Christmas shopping and ran into one of the first students I ever taught, who chatted literally for hours.  By the time I got back home, I was really full of holiday cheer.

There's been good and bad in every year of my life, but I'm pleased to say that Christmas has always been a happy time.  I hope the holiday will be good for all of you, too, and that 1992 will be full of love, joy, peace, and happiness.


The background music on this page is "The Seven Joys of Mary".