Alumni teachers reflect on RCS’s changes

Holly McDonald, Staff Writer

As alumni teachers from Rochester Community Schools walk into their classrooms, they carry with them the memories of their high school years. Social Studies teacher Mr. Larry Adams, who graduated from Rochester in 1980, still envisions the school that he was once a student in, with big fields and a courtyard.

Schools within the RCS community have not only gone through physical changes— technology, teachings and values have changed, too. Although the appearance of the schools has changed, alumni teachers have memories of high school that will never fade away.  

“I have friends who come here who haven’t been here since they graduated,” said Mr. Adams. “They are just amazed at how much the school has changed.”

Like RHS, Adams High School has gone through some major renovations since current teachers graduated, including a new auditorium.

“One major thing they’ve added was an auditorium,” said English teacher Mr. Todd Miesch, who graduated from Adams in 1995. “About five years after I graduated, they added the auditorium that they have today, so that is a huge thing that is new.”

RHS has also gone through four major renovations within the last 40 years.

“The main entrance to the school used to be where the stairs lead to the mall. Students could go outside for lunch in a courtyard with some hills,” Mr. Adams said. “In one of the last renovations ten or fifteen years ago, all of the room numbers changed and I got confused.”

Although Rochester High has vastly changed since then, for some teachers, the small differences also make an impact.

“There are a lot more decorations around the school,” said math teacher Ms. Rosol, who graduated from Rochester in 2013. “There’s more Rochester signs and school spirit signs. The trees are new and there’s a lot more color in the school than when I was here.”

Alumni teachers think that students today are fortunate to have what is given to them.  

“I wish we had Chromebooks that work. I wish I had the carpet and the paint. I especially wish we had the atmosphere and the school spirit,” said Herr Crites, who graduated from Rochester in 2011. “ I think that’s because the teachers and other administrators have bought into it [the school spirit] and I think the entire school works together to show pride in Rochester today.”

While in school, alumni teachers used different types of technology, ranging from typewriters and film projectors to the evolution of apps and smartphones.

“The computers were huge, and we had no internet,” said Mr. Miesch. “The internet was just coming out when I graduated. The printer that we used was almost like a typewriter that had loud beeping noises. It would take ten minutes to print one sheet of paper. It was ridiculous!”

Although Herr Crites graduated in 2011, the technology used at RHS is still much different than what he had as a student.

“I remember using Quizlet as a tool, but we didn’t really have apps yet,” Herr Crites said. “Apps didn’t really become a word until I was leaving high school. I’d say my senior year was when smartphones were becoming a big thing.”

Not only has technology changed the way classrooms run, but the way material is presented by the teachers has changed as well.  

“I’ve noticed that a lot more teachers are interested in getting students involved in the learning with visuals,” Ms. Rosol said. “The students are running the classrooms more, opposed to when I was here, where we were just in the classroom with the teacher talking at us and hoping that we gathered all of the information.”

For some teachers, AP classes weren’t offered when they were students. Mr. Adams graduated in 1980, which was before AP classes were available.

“The AP program didn’t really exist back then,” Mr. Adams said. “We had honors classes, but advanced placement programs and opportunities are things we didn’t have while at school.”

Along with AP classes, teachers believe that there is more of an emphasis on standardized tests such as the SAT.

“When I was in school, the SAT or the ACT was important, but the teachers weren’t really trying to prepare us for that,” said English teacher Mr. Chuck Kowal, who graduated from Adams in 1987. “There were more electives and freedoms for us to pursue than just one test.”

Some teachers were required to take the ACT rather than the SAT.

“When I was in school we were required to take the ACT, which was sort of the benchmark of which universities you could get into,” Herr Crites said. “Students now are required to take the SAT. I think that is the biggest change in terms of what is required of the students.”

When alumni teachers were in school, there were some classes that they were able to take that aren’t currently offered.

“One thing they don’t have anymore is a student aid or a student assistant,” Mr. Miesch said. “You would help the teacher do errands that they didn’t necessarily have time to do. That’s one thing I remember as a student, having a great time and being able to help out a teacher.”

Students today are required to take different classes and tests than when the alumni teachers were students.

“I used to take ten weeks of swimming,” Mr. Adams said. “There was more of an emphasis on physical fitness. Now, we have changed our focus from that and it’s unfortunate because I think fitness a big part of education too.”

Alumni teachers were able to experience things as a student that aren’t available to students today. The teachers hope that someday, RHS will be able to bring these things back.

“We used to have ten-week courses,” said Mr. Adams. “I think that going back to something like that would not be a bad idea to give kids more options. Electives seem to be getting squeezed out in favor of required and core classes. If we could creatively bring that back I would really like having ten-week classes.”

For Mr. Miesch, one small change to be added in RHS could make a big difference for students and teachers.

“We had maybe seven to eight minutes of passing time and even as a teacher, our time is not long enough to go to the bathroom,” Mr. Miesch said. “I wish we could somehow get that back.”

The alumni teachers hope that they made a lasting impression on the students they graduated with. Each teacher has something different that they think their classmates would have remembered about them.

“They would probably remember my laugh and my personality,” Ms. Rosol said. “I was really outgoing and involved in the school, with student council and cheer. I was always trying to get people involved. I won the best laugh, so it would mostly be my laugh!”

Although Mr. Kowal wasn’t an outgoing student, he hopes his peers would remember him for his hard work and his personality.

“I was pretty quiet in high school. I had a small group of friends and we did everything together,” Mr. Kowal said. “In a typical class, I was more introverted, quiet and kept to myself. I think people would remember that I was a hard worker and a good student, but I was shy.”

Herr Crites hopes that students remember him for his words and actions rather than his looks.

“I had horrible sideburns until my junior or senior year,” Herr Crites said. “I gave the commencement address at my graduation, so hopefully they remember the speech and hopefully they remember it well.”

Mr. Adams thinks that he is remembered by his ability to play many sports and his inviting nature.

“I guess I was kind of a jock. I played football, I played baseball, I ran a little track and I wrestled. I did a little bit of everything,” Mr. Adams said. “I got along with different groups of people. I didn’t just have one close set of friends.”

Mr. Miesch hopes that students remember him more for his music, rather than how he acted in class.

“I was a drummer in high school, so people would know that. I often played in the pit band for the musicals,” said Mr. Miesch. “I was a goofball in class! I always tried to be a good kid and get good grades, so I was allowed to make jokes and teachers let me get away with it. I tried to be cool but I don’t think I was very cool.”

Although current RHS alumni teachers graduated from Rochester and Adams, they all come together to celebrate being a Falcon today.

“I’ve been a Rochester kid for a long time,” said Mr. Adams. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go to any other place!”