Retiring educator: Jan Gustafson

Staff Writer
Geneseo Republic
Jan Gustafson

School C.R. Hanna Elementary School, Orion

Grade level Kindergarten

Who and what inspired you to become a teacher?

I think my mom encouraged me to be a teacher. I taught Sunday school to third graders when I was in high school, and I really enjoyed it. When I started college I had not declared a major, but by my sophomore year, I had decided to be an elementary teacher, and once I started doing pre-student teaching in various schools, I was “hooked.” I never once wished I had a different profession.

Why did you choose this subject or this grade level?

I love this age. The children are so eager to learn. I can feel their enthusiasm the minute they walk in the classroom in the morning. Their joy of life is contagious and makes my job so fun.

What were your biggest challenges as a teacher? How did you handle them?

My biggest challenge was how to meet each of my students’ academic needs when they are at all different learning levels. My goal was to determine where each child was academically and move that student forward to the best of his/her ability. I have had parent helpers in my classroom daily, and they often reviewed materials with students who needed extra practice. I have incorporated various social studies and science units into our curriculum and taught those in depth. I tried to use those subjects to expose my students to something new every day. I feel that every child should feel successful, and be challenged, in their school experience.

What teaching moments have been the most memorable in your career?

It is really fun when my students learn how to blend sounds together to “read” a word. They are so proud of themselves, and it is really rewarding as a teacher to see that look of accomplishment in their eyes.

I’ll never forget my first day of teaching in February 1973. The previous teacher had the students copy the “News of the Day” from the chalkboard and take it home daily. One of my students told me his mom had a baby, so we all wrote that and it went home to everyone. I later found out that his mother wasn’t even pregnant. I did learn not to be so gullible.

What are your plans for your retirement?

My husband and I love to travel, so we are busy planning some trips. I want to stay involved in the community. Currently I am president of the Western District Library board, secretary of my PEO chapter, a member of the church session and our church choir, and I volunteer for the New Kingdom Trail Riders (we help handicapped students learn to ride horses).

I am also the Illinois Science Teachers’ Point of Contact for science teachers in Henry County, and I plan to remain on that committee. I still want to be involved in teaching “kids,” so I may sub or volunteer in Orion, or we have even discussed volunteering in really needy areas here and abroad. I want to exercise more, so Roy and I want to hike at various parks and paths. I have lots to do around the house and in my yard, but that will become a low priority if one of my sons wants to do something, or a friend calls to go out to lunch.


Age 59

Hometown Orion

Education Orion High School, 1969; Augustana College, 1973; master’s degree, computers in education, Marycrest College, Davenport, 1987.

Experience I have taught 31 years in Orion. I taught first grade for 12 years. Then I stayed home for eight years with my sons when they were little, and then I taught gifted education for one year and kindergarten for 18 years. When I was home with the boys, I taught evening classes on computers in education at Black Hawk College to elementary education students from Western Illinois University.

Hobbies I have two horses, a dog, and a cat. I love to read, travel, and go for walks. I enjoy playing the piano.

Family I have been married to my husband, Roy, for 36 years. He is retired from John Deere. We have two sons, Alex, 26, and Michael, 23. Both boys graduated from Iowa State University. Alex received his degree in computer science and has just finished his MBA from the University of Iowa. Michael just graduated with a degree in chemical engineering.