Never mind that Thursday, June 2, marked the second-to-last day of school. Terry Thode's students desired to learn.
Outfitted with protective eyewear, a group of fifth-grade students at Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum manufactured plastic eagle forms, desk organizers and dog bowls using a vacuum-forming machine in the technology classroom.
During the process, the students gained lessons in chemistry and recycling.
"For us, our passion has always been that kids have an extraordinary experience so they are excited about life and about learning," Thode said.
Thode and her husband, Brad Thode, are two of eight teachers who are retiring from the Blaine County School District Friday, June 3, the official end of the school year.
"I feel really lucky to have been in the right place at the right time," she said.
As a fitting tribute to her model program, the Blaine County School District board of trustees voted to rename the school's technology room "The Terry Thode Technology Education Classroom."
Thode began teaching art at Hemingway 29 years ago. After a year as the elementary art teacher, she shifted to teach fifth-grade. Five years later, an opportunity to pioneer an elementary technology program emerged.
"I felt there was a better way to show kids a connection to the real world rather than just book learning. It has been such an exciting thing," Thode said.
Parents approached the school board with the idea for a technology program at the elementary level. The Hemingway program became the prototype for programs established later at Hailey and Bellevue elementary schools.
With elementary certificates in math, science and elementary technology education, and a master's degree in interactive learning devices, Thode saw an opportunity to combine her love of science and math in the classroom.
"(The technology program) has the students thinking about their math, how they can use their science, and why they need to read—and that it's all fun," Thode said.
Thode's students learn to apply their knowledge to the world. Independence, common sense, environmental awareness and decision-making come with Thode's instruction.
"It's a different type of learning," Thode said.
The nature of technology provides a field that changes daily.
"No technology teacher could know everything," Thode said. "You have to keep up with what's happening, especially the things that impact (the students') lives and the environment."
Technological advances consistently change the classroom projects. This year, students built crash cars to test vehicle safety features and designed models of an alternate transportation system for the Wood River Valley.
"Now you are going to notice your world," Thode said to the fifth-grade class.
Upon her retirement, Thode also plans to take a new glance at the world. She looks forward to hiking during the day, spending time with her grandson, staying involved with NASA and writing a fiction story.
"To me, none of us should stop learning," she said.
2005 Blaine County School District retirees
· Ray Cross, Silver Creek Alternative School social studies teacher (25 years).
· Rick Dressell, Wood River Middle School librarian (13 years).
· Jeanie Frost, Wood River High School librarian (30 years).
· Ann Neville, Bellevue Elementary School kindergarten teacher (14 years).
· Tim Neville, Wood River High School English teacher and debate coach (34 years).
· Brad Thode, Wood River Middle School technology teacher (29 years).
· Terry Thode, Hemingway Elementary School technology teacher (29 years).
· Blaine Tingey, Carey science teacher and athletic director (37 years).