The red and green signs in the department stores are urging me to remember "seasonal traditions", and certainly one of the most important such traditions is keeping in touch with all my friends and relatives. I hope all is well with you and that these greetings will add to your joy during this Christmas season.
This has without question been one of the busiest years of my life. While most of it has been quite enjoyable, it seems I've barely had time to catch my breath since last Christmas. With this in mind, I'll try to give you just the abridged version of how the year has gone.
Last month I started my fifteenth year at Garrigan. It's weird that sometimes it seems like just yesterday that I moved to Algona, and at other times it seems as if I've been here forever. I teach four different levels of math, as well as working as the school's gifted and talented coordinator. My favorite class remains Geometry, and I especially like the group of freshmen who entered school this year. (That would be the same class as Rachel's; I hope her class in Oskaloosa is as good.) Aside from classes, I work with individual speech; and I'm in charge of the school's weekly radio show (the "Bear Facts"), the student council (which includes Homecoming and the annual magazine drive), and the quiz bowl team.
The highlight of the year was probably our quiz bowl team's third straight trip to the National Academic Championships. This year Paul joined us as we headed east to Washington, D.C. We saw all the must-see attractions of the nation's capital, as well as making a side trip to Camden Yards in Baltimore. The group of students we had this year was really fun to travel with, and while the competition did not go that well for us, I think both the kids and I had a wonderful trip.
I also continue to work as an adjunct instructor at Iowa Lakes Community College, mostly teaching classes over their television system. This past year I taught Calculus, Statistics, Math for General Education, and Intermediate Algebra. While the money is goof, it's often more work than I really want (like this fall, when I'm teaching three nights a week). It's also a chore getting tests and papers back and forth to the various centers, and it bothers me that I have no input into matters like textbooks or course scheduling. On the plus side, I really enjoy working with adult students, who tend to be much more serious about things than high school kids are. It's especially gratifying when someone who has had trouble understanding math suddenly "gets" it.
While the quiz bowl trip was my major "vacation" for the year, I also made three short jaunts over the summer--to St. Louis, Kansas City, and Chicago. Those helped nudge the mileage on my ten-year-old car over 150,000. That car also has a big dent in the door now, where someone hit it last Easter. It still seems to run okay, though (knock on wood), and I'm hoping to get one more winter out of it before I look for something new.
I've spent most of my free time this past year exploring the Internet, with the help of a WebTV terminal I acquired last Christmas. I've created my own website (http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Hills/3224/), which includes many of the travelogues I've written over the years. I've also used the web extensively in my college courses, and I'm trying to incorporate more on-line experiences in my high school classes. Aside from educational projects, there's also lots of great time-wasters on the Internet, and I certainly won't pretend I haven't wasted more than my share of time on-line. If you try to call me and get a busy signal, there's a fairly good change I'm out exploring cyberspace.
. . . Of course, there's also a goof chance I'm talking to someone--especially Paul or Margaret, both of whom I communicate with quite frequently. Whenever I think I'm too busy, I just think of Paul, who never seems to have a spare moment between his school, church, and community activities. He, Nancy, and the kids all seem fine, though. Rachel is in ninth grade now (which is still junior high in Oskaloosa), and her biggest activity this fall has been flag corps for the band. Timothy seems to share his father's love for electronics.
Margaret has been quite frustrated with the school where she teaches--and rightly so. They've gone through numerous silly changes which are supposed to make the school better. In reality they have created much more work, but actually decreased the amount of learning that goes on. Fortunately Margaret very much likes the students she teaches; she says that's what keeps her going, in spite of all the extra headaches.
A year ago Margaret and I had the pleasure of spending Christmas in New Mexico with Steve, Terry, Hannah, Michelle, and Josh, and two exchange students who were staying with them. It was wonderful to see them and also fun to see a different part of the country in winter. While Steve's whole family is doing fine, they would like to move back to the Midwest. They're forever checking the want ads, and last summer they shuttled back and forth to job interviews. For the moment they're still in the Four Corners area, but that could change at any time.
John probably had the biggest news of the year when he was nominated for Iowa Teacher of the Year. He called me up to ask for input on filling out the application and doing the interview. He probably shouldn't have done that--given that I didn't win, and now John joins me on the list of also-rans. It certainly is a well deserved honor for him to be nominated, though.
The Burrow reunion was combined with two graduation receptions last May. It was good to see all the relatives down in Waverly. Margaret and I went down to Alaire's for Thanksgiving, and we also managed to see our cousins from Dale's family. While there's a variety of news from all the Millers, in general everyone seems to be doing all right.
I hope all is well with all of you as well. May these greetings find you happy, and may you have a joyous holiday season and a wonderful new year.
The background music on this page is "Let There Be Peace on Earth".