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Singing praises for the unsung heroes

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” - William Arthur Ward

Most of us have at least one teacher we remember fondly, if not many teachers. A good teacher’s influence on our lives is immeasurable, and the best teachers inspire their students to believe and achieve far beyond themselves. Two such teachers who were passionate about their chosen profession live among us at Aberdeen Village. Teachers are often the unsung heroes of our society, but here, we sing their praises.

Born and raised in Kansas, Kay Ruen went to college at the young age of 20 in Oklahoma, then went on to teach in Nashville, and finally in Northeast Iowa. She taught for 37 years and said there’s one grade she considers the “perfect age” to teach.

“First grade is perfect. I love to talk, and so do first graders! When they first get in, they’re learning their ABCs, and when they leave, they’re reading—sometimes even chapter books! It’s so rewarding to see that much progress in one year. They’re eager and willing to listen and learn,” said Kay. “I've always felt first grade was the most important because we're teaching them everything they need to know for the rest of your life.”

Kay certainly made an impact on many young lives, and even had the opportunity to teach the children of her students. This full-circle experience helped Kay see the wonderful influence a teacher could have.

“I really miss how delightful and open those little kids are. Although, their families may be mortified if they knew everything their children told me in class!” said Kay. “I have to say, the greatest satisfaction I got from teachers was when I would get graduation announcements in the mail. Knowing they reached that milestone meant the world to me.”

Kay and her husband Frank Gould have lived at Aberdeen Village for a year, and she enjoys all of the activities and amenities we offer, especially the water aerobics. Kay has two children and three grandchildren.

If there were any advice she’d give to families and teachers today, it would be this:

“I would like to see grandparents be really involved with their grandchildren. We don't get that much opportunity anymore, because families get so scattered.”

Also a native Kansan, Esther Minter’s teaching career began in 1953 when she got her 60-hour teaching certification and went to work at a rural one-room school in Dixon County.

“I didn’t have any students in 1st or 8th grade, so that helped. They were all in the middle. I had about eight or nine students. I boarded with a family about a half-mile down the road who didn’t have any children. I walked to school every day, although I didn’t have to during the bad blizzard we had, and I was grateful for that,” said Esther. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher from the third grade on. I love kids.”

Esther eventually went on to get her teaching degree from Emporia State University in 1959 and recalls a teacher who made an impact on her there.

“My last year there, I had a teacher I’d been trying to avoid, but actually, she ended up being my favorite. She had a fairness with her grading, and she wanted people in elementary education to be as important as the ball players! So, she’d put our scores up and gave everyone kudos. It was more than just a paper handed back.”

After Esther got married to her husband Kenneth, they were stationed in Key West, where she taught for a year.

“There were coconut trees around the playground, and we had a black car. If you didn’t get your car parked under the coconut tree, you’d have to drive home with hot pads on your hands! And I’ve always loved art as well. When I wasn’t teaching, I was doing shellcraft on the side.”

Esther and Kenneth, who was also in education and taught at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, have a son and daughter, and have lived at Aberdeen Village for nearly five years.

“We came after living on the farm for 50 years. We used to have to do everything for ourselves, so we feel like we’re kind of loafing here, but that’s okay. The people here are really nice, and everyone has a fantastic story. Somebody should write a book about all of the interesting people here. And of course, the food is fantastic.”

While Esther is enjoying her life at Aberdeen Village, she fondly recalls her time as a teacher.

“I just enjoyed teaching, and I still enjoy kids. I even did some subbing after I retired. I helped out with all grade levels. I was probably the most surprised when they called me to sub for an auto body class!”

We’re grateful for wonderful teachers like Kay and Esther who dedicated their lives to educating and inspiring others.

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