Retired teacher can’t stay away from the classroom
Dennis VanOverbeke likes to stay in touch.
Even though he’s retired, VanOverbeke is familiar to many Gothenburg High School students and teachers because he substitute teaches between 90 and 100 days a year and has done so for the last 10 years.That’s about three months.
Why do he and wife, Carol, do it?
“Mainly to stay in touch with faculty, students and educational issues,” he said. “I also enjoy it because the students are friendly and respectful.”
By and large, VanOverbeke said he enjoys the students and likes the educational background they receive in the Gothenburg school system.
He noted that the system is fortunate to have solid backing from the community.
For example, a Renaissance program was started several years ago that supports academic achievements by students through prizes and donations from the community.
At 71 years of age, he knows a majority of the students as he taught many of their parents and some of their grandparents.
Carol, who is also a retired teacher, substitutes in grades K-6 while VanOverbeke fills in for teachers in grades 7-12.
Because he doesn’t have a background in science or math, VanOverbeke said he doesn’t like to sub in those areas.
“And when I substitute teach, I would rather teach and not just baby sit,” he said.
Not being comfortable with the subject area is challenging part of substitute teaching for VanOverbeke as is not remembering a student’s name, he said.
One age group is not any more challenging than another, VanOverbeke said.
“I guess I have always felt that if I enjoy the subject area, I will enjoy the students and vice versa,” he said.
What he likes most about substitute teaching is the professionalism and camaraderie of the faculty and friendliness of students.
“Because I’ve taught in Gothenburg since 1969, I know most of them (faculty) and they know my quirks and idiosyncrasies,” VanOverbeke said.
What’s great about the job, he said, is that he can go home at the end of the day without papers to correct.
VanOverbeke said he’s noticed that substitute teachers are needed more now than in the past because of the increased number of extracurricular activities.
“I feel that co-curricular activities are a necessary part of the education of students because they teach the student commitment, sportsmanship and an obligation to that commitment,” he said.
Because of increased governmental regulations on school districts, VanOverbeke said teachers must attend more meetings and seminars and be away from the classroom.
VanOverbeke taught for 40 years before retiring. Subjects include: eighth-grade American history, government, psychology, French and Spanish 1, 11, III and IV and English 9-12.
Born in Minnesota in 1942, he started his teaching career in a private school in Minnesota.
From there, he moved to the University of Wyoming where he taught French I and got a master’s degree in fine arts in French.
The VanOverbekes moved to Gothenburg in 1969 where he said he’s worked with a number of superintendents and principals who place student education first.
During that time, one of the most difficult things for VanOverbeke was moving from the old junior-senior high building into the current building.
“I had so many memories of the students, of playing pranks on other teachers—it was like giving up my home,” he said. “However the new building is great because of the space, the grouping of subject areas together and the ease of going from one area to another.”
Despite the ups and downs in education, VanOverbeke said he’s always felt it’s important to remember that teaching is a profession, not just a job.