Long-Time Teacher Perspectives on JBS Over the Years

Maisie Zipfel and Olivia Ballet

Throughout the years, Burroughs has seen many teachers come and go, but every once in a while, we get those few teachers who decide that the Burroughs community is something that they want to continue to be a part of for many years. We decided to interview some of the teachers and coaches that have been affiliated with JBS the longest to hear what they had to say about our community.

All four teachers that we interviewed — Mr. Henningsen, Mr. Nicholas, Ms. Bahe, and Coach Clark — agree that one of the biggest and refined changes has been the major increase of diversity within the student body and amongst the faculty and staff racially, ethnically, and culturally. They have witnessed the emergence of many clubs celebrating the cultures and traditions of minority groups and the inclusion of a wide variety of backgrounds.

Ms. Bahe
Mr. Nicholas
Coach Clark
Mr. Henningson

Another opinion that all teachers included in their responses was the light and energy that the students bring to the classroom. Mr. Henningsen went on to explain how, when he began teaching, it was just a job to him, nowhere near as fulfilling and inspiring as his position at JBS has been. Henningsen says, “… Burroughs is a teacher’s dream and my dream came true then and continues to come true now.” The kindness and motivation seen in the students and faculty is a core value that has remained consistent throughout many years and will hopefully continue. As Ms. Bahe says, “Burroughs has always made a major commitment to educating the whole person.” Along with academics, it is standard that all students participate in athletics as well as the arts. Giving back to the St. Louis community is also notably present in different clubs and activities. These outlets expand beyond simply the academics, a goal that Burroughs prides itself on. Coach Clark touched on the importance of tradition within our community. While some traditions have evolved, many have remained the same, such as the daily assembly and family-style lunches. Clark explains how these practices connect the JBS community and perpetuate a familial atmosphere. Also touching on the unique familial feelings Burroughs brings, Henningsen noted, “I like reconnecting with parents through their children and watching the Burroughs family grow. Being a part of this family has given me a rich and rewarding life, and I’m grateful for that each and every day.”

When asked if any story or moment stood out in their teaching experience, Mr. Nicholas says that no one moment defines his experience or connection to the JBS community. Rather, he explained, “I have witnessed many moments of quiet courage and grace—courteous goodwill—from both students and teachers here. That makes me a lucky man.” While many core values have remained, Coach Clark had a lot to add about the traditions that have evolved since her first time experiencing Burroughs as a student and eventually a coach. Some highlights include the change in the Burroughs Spirit Week as a whole. To start, the pep rally and bonfire were originally just to recognize football players, but now all fall sports teams are included in this celebration. Coach Clark also speaks on the shift from ‘poking fun at our rivals to promoting our JBS spirit.’ Along with this shift in tradition, Coach Clark tells us that the most obvious change is in the campus itself. The only building that remains the same from the time that Coach Clark first came on campus in 1967 is the Brauer building without the Schnuck wing and Memorial gym. Clark recognizes that change can be hard, but advises us all to “embrace change since it usually leads to something better!” Along with Coach Clark, Ms. Bahe witnessed the building of both indoor pools, the field house, and the purchasing of our many sports fields and areas. She remarks that “our facilities have become spectacular, to say the least.”

Ms. Bahe also touches on the giant leap in technological advancements from when she began teaching in 1979. She tells us that at the start of her teaching, “everything was done with typewriters and paper and pencil. The science building had one telephone shared by all the faculty. I had to run off handouts with a ditto machine which left blue ink over everything and I had to retype all my work every year.” This may seem foreign to many of us as, in our current times, digital learning is typical. Despite the changes in the Burroughs community, each teacher has found a significant reason to stay. For some, it’s the fun and lively atmosphere of Burroughs that keeps them coming back. For example, Coach Clark says, “A couple years before we had turf, Coach Greditzer’s Halloween costume had a board full of grass on the front of her and one with astroturf on her back. She laid on the stage where the headmaster, Dr. Shahan, hit a plastic golf ball into the Haertter Hall audience. Tears from laughter were flowing!” Memorable moments like these, when the student body and the faculty and staff are able to come together, add to the Burroughs charm. It makes the community welcoming and a place that people want to both attend and work at. As for Ms. Bahe, she tells us how supportive the JBS community is to their teachers. Ms. Bahe says, “What I found was a school that supported the creativity of its teachers, giving us the freedom to design curricula and activities that matched our teaching styles and goals for our students.” Ms. Bahe also mentions that the faculty are very supported by the school so that the children of teachers can attend Burroughs. She tells us that this is a major benefit that attracted her to the school when she was a young teacher with a growing family to support.

Mr. Henningsen, on the other hand, tells us of his decision to come back after retirement. He retired in 2012, although he only stayed away from JBS for one full school year. In October of 2013, Henningsen was asked by Mr. Abbott if he would take a couple of English classes. Since this time, Mr. Henningsen has come back to help teach every year except one. When asked why he chooses to continue to return despite his original decision to retire, Henningsen says, “I miss the students. You guys give me energy and joy, and that’s good medicine for the oldest dude on campus!” Mr. Nicholas had a similar answer to Mr. Henningsen: it’s the motivation and willingness to learn from the students that keeps him at JBS. He says that at JBS, “Almost all of the students are sincere and try to meet me half-way in subjects with which they are unfamiliar.” He also says that, “Although most people work hard at JBS, teaching thirty-nine years here has been easier than teaching five years at high schools where I worked before I came here.” He recognizes that the motivation and drive of the students at JBS are why he returns to teach here year after year.

So whether it be long-lasting friendships, old and new traditions, or the energy the students bring, the JBS community has a unique pull that keeps these teachers returning. Without a doubt, we can say that without the teachers that do so much for us, both those that only stay for a few years and those who decide to continue teaching for many, Burroughs would not be the place it is today.