Retiring staff members look back on memorable times at BV

Anna Wonderlich, Co-Editor

Bob Whitehead, Associate Principal, Athletic Director

Q: Why are you leaving?
A: “I’ve been in education for 45 years and I think it’s a good stopping point –– time for a younger person to probably do it. There have been a couple health issues that have impacted that decision. I was out for 6 weeks this winter for surgery. I wasn’t feeling well enough to do the job like I wanted to do it.”
Q: How long have you been at BV?
A: “I’ve been in the BV District 34 years. I was a teacher here first for about 6 or 7 years. This is my sixteenth year in this job, so probably between 20 and 25 years I’ve been at Blue Valley High.”
Q: What do you think about Ortman replacing you?
A: “I felt like we had several young coaches in our building that were capable of doing the work, and I was happy that our district chose to interview them and include them in the interview process. I’m disappointed for the ones that didn’t get the job –– I think any one of them could’ve done it –– but I’m happy for Mr. Ortman and he’ll do a great job.”
Q: How do you feel about leaving?
A: “Well, it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I have the greatest job in America and so it’s hard to leave the greatest job in America.”
Q: What will you miss most?
A: “I don’t know if I can answer the most. You always miss people. You know, Mrs. [Karen] Kaman has been my secretary for a number of years and does an outstanding job. I’m going to miss going to Friday night games –– they’re a lot of fun. Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, going to games is something that I really enjoy. Can you imagine, people pay me to go watch games? I would probably do it anyway.”
Q: Anything else?
A: “I just want to thank everyone for their support over the years. Our parent community has been really outstanding. The kids are respectful, and we don’t always agree –– sometimes they think I’m old and crabby –– but I really have enjoyed my time here.” 

Matt Ortman, math teacher

Q: How were you selected to replace Whitehead?
A: “There was first an interview at District Office with a lot of the assistant superintendents, and then I had another meeting with a group called Ed Services –– so that’s like Technology, Special Education and the head of Curriculum and Instruction. Then I had an interview with our school, the school leadership team, and then finally had another interview with Dr. [Tom] Trigg, the superintendent. [The interviews] took over probably a month.”
Q: How will this job be different for you compared to teaching math?
A: “Well the big thing is I will no longer be teaching or coaching, which has been a big part of my life. I won’t have as direct contact with students and athletes as I did before.”
Q: Are you planning on changing anything or doing things differently than him?
A: “I’m sure there will be a few changes based on our personalities, but Mr. Whitehead has done an excellent job and so I just plan on continuing on a lot of the good things he’s done, and I’m sure there’ll be just a few changes here or there.”
Q: How do you feel about replacing him?
A: “It’s big shoes to fill. He has been here for 20-some years. He is very well-known and very well-respected and so I’m just hoping that I can step in there and just kind of keep a good thing going because he’s done a great job as the [athletic director].”
Q: Who will replace you as a math teacher and as a coach?
A: “As a math teacher, we hired my student teacher [Jonathan Jost], and so he will step in and take some of that responsibility. They have not hired a math department chair to replace me, so they’re still in the process of figuring that out and finding the next baseball coach.”
Q: What do you think about him retiring?
A: “I think it’s good for him, I think he’ll have some time to spend with his family and do some fishing and just kind of relax. After kind of a tough year physically, it will be good for him to just be able to take some more time and enjoy himself.”

Mel Baskett, Psychology teacher

Q: Why are you leaving?
A: “I’m 64, and I think it’s time to move on. I’ve been working part-time the last 2 years, and we live in Lawrence, so it’s time-consuming and cost-consuming to commute. My wife retired last October, and it’s just time to move on.”
Q: How long have you been at BV?
A: “28. The vast majority, for 26 years, I’ve taught Sociology and Psychology, and now I’ve taught American History several years, too.”
Q: What do you think about Buffington replacing you?
A: “I told [Principal] Scott [Bacon] and our department when I was leaving I’m 100 percent neutral on who takes my place –– I’m not going to be trying to influence someone. I think that’s just the fair thing to do, and I think Courtney [Buffington] will do a great job, and she’s excited. But ultimately, Scott and [Social Studies Department Chair] Jason Peres have to make those decisions.”
Q: How do you feel about leaving?
A: “It’s bittersweet, but it’s getting sweeter by the day. I feel like when it’s time to go you’ll know, and other people who retired have told me that. The bitter part is I will miss friendships, relationships. In many ways, teaching keeps me younger. People sometimes say, ‘Aren’t you just jumping for joy?’ and I say no, because I feel sorry for anyone  that says ‘I’m so happy to get out of here’ when they retired. I feel so sorry when they say that because it means they really didn’t like their work, and that’s not my case.”
Q: What will you miss most?
A: “Friends on the staff and teasing kids. I think there’s an innocence about youth that’s refreshing. Put simply, I’d rather be around crazy kids than crazy adults –– they’re more fun.”
Q: Anything else?
A: “In my years here, I’ve seen a lot of change. The student body has become kinder and gentler. I think some of that is because the staff has worked very hard on that. I would say that kids get to know their teachers as people and not just as that person in front of the class everyday. We have some very talented and fascinating staff members here, and if you get to know them, there’s a lot to them.”

Courtney Buffington, social studies teacher

Q: How were you selected to replace Baskett?
A: “I’ve been after Baskett’s job for about 5 years. I kept asking him when he was going to retire. If you ask any of my students, I love to psychoanalyze everything, so now I’ll actually be doing what I’m supposed to be doing instead of getting off-track in History.”
Q: How do you feel about replacing him?
A: “I am excited to get to teach Psychology, but I feel like I have big shoes to fill because I’ve respected Mr. Baskett for the 11 years I’ve been here, even when he made fun of me and my ever-changing hairstyles. I want to make him proud and still make it my own because we are still very different.”
Q: How will you make it your own or keep things the same?
A: “Mr. Baskett does great simulations, from what I’ve heard. I’m trying to capture that part to keep his ideas in the classroom. And I’m a little ‘Type A’ when it comes to the notes.”
Q: How will teaching Psychology be different for you than what you’re teaching now?
A: “I’m excited to get to teach an elective where kids have signed up to take this class. I have spent most of my 11 years here teaching classes that kids are required to take, so I’m really excited to get to work with kids that are interested in the topic. Also it’s my first time teaching AP, and I’m really excited to work with that type of student because I haven’t done that before.”
Q: What do you think about him leaving BV?
A: “I am excited for him, because he and his wife deserve to have some fun together, but he will be greatly missed. His perspective in our department meetings is needed because he gives us a reality check when we need it, and so we’ll miss that.”

Jessica Palmer, former P.E. teacher, volleyball coach

Palmer was unable to be contacted, although she said she was moving to Arkansas to be with family for health and family issues before she left. Her last day at BV was Friday, March 23.

Kim Cobb, long-term P.E. Department substitute

Q: How were you selected to replace them?
A: “They just had an opening for a long-term sub position, and you needed to be certified in Physical Education and health and I am.”
Q: Will you be the gym teacher at BV next year too?
A: “No, this is an assignment only for the remainder of the school year.”
Q: How do you feel about replacing Palmer?
A: “Well, I’m excited to be here, but obviously it’s a difficult situation with her needing to leave. I’m trying to make the transition as smooth as possible and my goal is for students to continue to be successful. As far as the program is concerned, she left me lots of notes and directions and we’re just trying to proceed forward.”
Q: How have things been going so far?
A: “Great –– the students have been good to work with and the staff has been supportive, so everything so far is going very well. We’re just trying to continue as far as her policies and the way things are run and trying to maintain that consistency.”
Q: What do you think about her leaving?
A: “Well it’s a difficult situation –– sometimes situations arise that are challenging and it’s unfortunate and I feel bad. I know she loved it here and enjoyed coaching and working with the students, so it was a very difficult situation for her and that’s certainly upsetting, but like I said, I’m just here to try and help her students be successful and make a smooth transition for the remainder of the school year.”