This has definitely been a whirlwind year! I've been up, down, and all over the place--but I certainly can't say I've been bored.
I got off to a busy start by spending much of the winter practicing and going to meets with our quiz bowl team, which did outstanding. They won trophies at three meets last year and made the finals at the big Wartburg tournament for the first time ever.
I also went to a lot of Garrigan basketball games, including all but two of the away games. That's even more than I went to back when my brother Paul was playing. I know and like almost everybody on the team (many of whom are also in quiz bowl), and I had a lot of fun at the games. Garrigan had an outstanding season; they almost made it to the state tournament.
Spring brought speech season, and we had a good year. I was pleased that one storytelling entry I had worked with won all-state honors. Speech is draining, but it does make me feel good when the kids do well.
My vacation this year came at Easter. We had a long break this year, and I flew down to Florida to visit a friend I had met at grad school. I had a great time. We went to Disney World, Universal Studios, St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, and a wilderness area north of Tampa--and we spent a lot of time just catching up on what had happened over the year. I can't say Florida is my favorite place to visit, but I'm glad I went.
I skipped Garrigan's graduation this year so I could go over to Decorah to see my brother Steve graduate from Luther. It took fifteen years, but he's finally got his B.A.--with highest honors. Steve's step-son Chris is 18 now, and it was fun to hear his band play for us at Steve's graduation reception. They've been playing at parties around Decorah, and were even part of a public concert.
I gave my finals early this year and took off on the last day of school to race down to Mississippi in time for summer school to start. Classes were tough this summer (I always seemed to be swamped with papers), but I finished with a 4.0--and, more importantly, my Master's Degree. I had a great time at school, too. Almost all of my old friends from last summer were back, and I had fun meeting a lot of new people, too. I had about ninety times the social life I have at home, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. At the end of the summer my sister Margaret and her friend Vicki came down to watch me graduate. Afterwards we took off on a sort of mini-vacation. We saw a variety of places on the way back home. I especially enjoyed the NASA facility in Houston, where a former student of Vicki's gave us a personal tour.
I got some exciting news over the summer. My administrator nominated me for the honor of Iowa Teacher of the Year. I was shocked, to say the least, but I proceeded with the paperwork (the application is sixteen pages long) and got several recommendations. I was even more astounded when I got the news that I had made the cut and was a finalist--only the second one ever from a Catholic school. In the end I finished third. It would have been nice to win, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't proud of being a finalist.
When I got back from grad school, I had only a week before school started up again. No sooner had it started than I was busy organizing Homecoming. Things didn't go as well as last year, but the kids seemed to like it and overall it wasn't bad. For me the best part of Homecoming was getting together with a group of former students who are now seniors in college.
Student Council brought the annual magazine drive, and also a rather unwelcome responsibility. The school acquired a candy machine that seems to be forever breaking down. The Student Council kids do a lot of the work for it, but there were an awful lot of times this fall when I felt more like a repair man than a teacher (too bad I don't get paid like one).
I also organized Garrigan's second annual quiz bowl tournament. That was quite an endeavor--since we hosted three times as many teams as last year. Our kids started out the season well, finishing second and third in a field of twenty-four teams.
I'm also working with a new activity this fall. Garrigan is producing a radio feature which airs on the local station each Saturday. We tape "The Bear Facts" Wednesday afternoons, and it's really fun to do. There's a possibility we might eventually expand into something on the public access cable channel, but I want to make sure we can do it right before we do.
This year I'm also the school's "gifted and talented coordinator". We're starting a new independent study program for the brightest students. It won't officially begin until second semester, but I've been busy going through records and identifying the top kids in each grade.
On top of everything, I'm on the negotiations team at school this fall. It's a position no one wanted--especially after last year we ended up with a pay freeze and lost our earned steps on the salary scale. I've been spending long hours working at the computer, coming up with various proposals to present to the school board. I only hope they'll at least look at them.
Probably the biggest part of my year has been spent tutoring students, most of whom aren't even in my classes. Last spring I worked with one student, which I basically considered helping a friend. This fall that has mushroomed, and I've been tutoring more than a dozen kids with various things. I really enjoy helping people (it makes me feel like I'm doing something productive), but it does get to be a challenge finding time for it all.
My biggest activity outside of school was another community theatre play. While I probably should have said "no", I agreed to try out for The Belle of Bisbee, a corny little melodrama that came off this fall. I was hoping for a small, low-pressure kind of part. Needless to say, I ended up with the lead--the villainous Pinkham Mudstone, III. It was a fun role, but I must say it's goof to have the play over with, so I have a little time to breathe.
When they were reading the program from the play, my family noticed an item I should probably mention. When I was in Mississippi, I won a radio phone-in contest, and the prize was a bunch of baseball cards. I gave those to the student who was taking care of my apartment over the summer, who is also a good friend. The taste was enough to get me addicted, though, and this fall I've been wasting my spare money on cardboard. It may be a little kid's hobby, but it's fun.
As for the rest of the family . . . Steve has been student teaching this fall, and he expects to have a full-time job in New Mexico in the spring. His wife Terry has been working around the clock trying to keep the bills in order. She and Chris should be joining Steve in New Mexico after Chris graduates in May. . . . Margaret has some problem kids in her classes this year, but things are mostly going okay for her. She (along with Steve and Terry) got certified and is now an official IHSSA speech judge. It must run in the family. . . . Paul and Nancy are still in Oskaloosa. At Thanksgiving we were all amazed at how much Rachel had grown. She's wearing size 10 now, and she is proud of her accomplishments on the violin. Timothy's in elementary school now, and he always wants to get in his two cents worth. . . . John and Janet are busy as ever. Janet just finished up a series of classes that give her full certification as a travel agent. John hauled out his skills as a playwright and wrote a full-length satire (a parody of Stephen King novels) for Andrew's fall play.
The Burrow relatives held a reunion in Fredericksburg early in the fall, and it was good to see everybody there. I braved the snow and ice to join the family at my Aunt Alaire's for Thanksgiving. She tells me that most of the Millers are also doing fine.
This year marks my tenth Christmas in Algona. I had fun looking over the first "Dear Everyone" letter, which I wrote a decade ago. It brings to mind that old cliché that "the more things change, the more they stay the same". For instance, I'm single, like I was ten years ago--but today I'd give anything to change that situation. Unfortunately, no one who seems inclined to change it ever seems to come through Algona. Also, Garrigan is now called "Bishop Garrigan", and now I'm teaching math instead of Spanish. I still really like Garrigan, though, and over the years my closest friends have been students. I'm a lot more conservative and cynical than I was in years past, but overall I'm still an idealist. I'm busier than ever, but most of the time I still enjoy life.
There's one more thing that's as true this year as it was in 1983--my wish that your Christmas may be happy, and that the coming year may be a time of joy, love, and peace for all of you.
The background music on this page is the carol "Do You Hear What I Hear?"