For the week of June 16, 1999  thru June 23, 1999  

Hemingway loses gem in Stone

Teacher looks back as she heads for new challenge

Express Staff Writer

Sometimes one teacher can make all the difference to a student. Hemingway Elementary School teacher Betty Stone has been one of those teachers.

If Stone had her way, the nearly 800 children that have passed through her classrooms over the last 37 years were touched in a profound way.

A week ago on Friday afternoon, Stone packed a few boxes full of children’s books and closed her classroom door on a life of teaching.

"I am trying hard not to think about the end of the school term," Stone said. "I get so attached to my kids. If you get into the emotional side of it, then the end of every year becomes so painful.

"That might sound crass, but I put so much of myself into my kids. If I let myself think about them being gone, I would be a wreck."

The children’s books are for her infant granddaughter, Emily, with whom Stone expects to be spending a lot of time in coming years.

"I’m going to be a full-time nanny," Stone said. "It will keep me valuable to somebody."

Cradling Emily on her first Saturday in retirement, Stone reflected on her career.

She said she has seen the focus of elementary education shift from rigid, standardized curricula to curricula that adapt to individual student needs.

"Now, we’re focusing on what children intuitively want and teaching to individual needs," Stone said. "It’s harder, but it’s much more satisfying because you see the lights go on."

Seeing to it that those lights go on has been Stone’s personal mission.

She was one of the founders in the 1970s of Edgar’s Place in Elkhorn, the Wood River Valley’s first day-care center.

After that, she introduced the first preschool to the valley called the Betty School.

Since then, she has taught pre-school through high-school-aged children, as well as continuing education for adults.

First graders and kindergartners, whom she has been teaching for the past 17 years at Hemingway, have received most of her attention.

"They are the hardest two grades to teach," Stone said. "There are so many developmental changes."

To this age group, Stone played up what she calls the three Ls—learning to love, learning to listen and learning to make a mistake.

"The first day of school I always ask who is willing to take a risk in this classroom," Stone said. "If they’ll take a risk, make a mistake and learn from it, then I’ve got them."

Children at this age are too often taught to be perfect, which is a fallacy, Stone said.

Teaching also has been disturbing, she said, because teachers have taken on overwhelming parenting responsibilities.

"I wish I could convince parents to think about their kids way before they have them, and to stay away from the drugs," Stone said.

Stone said she encounters children whose development has been hindered because parents have used drugs.

These "drug-induced brain disorders" create "such a profound and sad situation," Stone said.

"It’s not fair to kids," Stone said.

But overall, parent support at Hemingway has been impressive.

"I don’t think there’s a school in Idaho that has as much parent involvement as we do, and that’s good. That’s a joy," she said. "It keeps teachers on their toes and it keeps parents in the loop."

A Hemingway colleague recently asked Stone to come up with the top ten reasons to retire.

She could rattle off two without hesitation.

"No more pantyhose," she hollered. "And getting up at 5 a.m."

When pressed for the other eight reasons, Stone was stumped.

It will, evidently, never be time for Stone to stop touching lives.

"I’ll never give up working with kids," Stone said. "Turning on the light is the glory of my life."


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