Wahlstrom refuses to count down days
Mary Gales Askren
Published: Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
The kids – it’s that simple, as far as retiring middle school English teacher Eileen Wahlstrom is concerned.
She entered the teaching profession because she enjoyed young people, and she persevered through personal tragedy because their needs provided a diversion from her pain.
“Kids are always worth the extra effort some need to make it,” she said.
Wahlstrom is one of six teachers granted early separation this year by the Custer school board. The school newsletter indicated that a higher number of teachers and/or administrators was granted early separation only twice since the negotiated agreement began in 1994-95. In 1996 and again in 2008, seven were approved.
Her children were in school and Wahlstrom was working in an antique store in Hermosa when a co-worker suggested she complete her college education and become a teacher. The suggestion was made after watching her interact with the students who came into the store for ice cream after being dropped off by the school bus.
“I always looked forward to the kids coming in,” Wahlstrom said. She played Scrabble and other games with them, and simply enjoyed talking with them.
After the store closed, she attended Black Hills State University to get the education courses she needed. Two or three days a week, she drove to Rapid City and carpooled with other nontraditional students to Spearfish.
“That was really fun. We were all going back to school. We were all raising kids,” she said. Consequently, the conversations were often as educational as the courses.
Wahlstrom completed her student teaching in Custer the semester after her son graduated from high school and joined the Custer school district as a teacher’s aide. The following year, she was hired to teach and split her time between the alternative school and the middle school. During her 20-year career, she has also taught at the high school, but ends her career with the district as a full-time middle school teacher.
As a teacher, she has encouraged intellectual inquiry while providing students with structure by having a few rules for her classroom which she consistently enforced. She also tries to accept the students as they are, but she knows her bond with students comes from another interest.
“I love sports, so I have always had a connection with the athletes,” Wahlstrom said.
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