Dettras retire after over 60 years combined teaching
By Alberta Stojkovic -
Two themes come up when students and parents reminisce about their experience with the Dettra teaching team. The first thing people mention is how Pete and Rhonda Dettra are very “hands on” in their teaching methods. The second thing they say is that they really care about the kids they teach.
After 31 and 32 years teaching in fifth and sixth grade, this is the first year the Dettras won’t be returning to the fifth and sixth grade classroom. Former students, friends and fellow teachers celebrated their years at Mount Gilead and Edison with a party at Edison School last week. There were many laughs, hugs and tears as friends wished them well in retirement.
Ashley Auld, who now teaches agriculture at Elgin High School, said that the “hands on” approach is the first thing that stands out in her mind when she thinks of the Dettras.
“Every concept we learned was ‘hands on’. There were lots of experiments and projects. We had a medieval fair for history and language. We built rockets. We swung cups of water in the air to learn about centrifugal force. We learned chess,” recalled Auld. “There was some traditional teaching of math and spelling, but it’s the “hands on” that I remember most.”
Auld went on to say that they never identified group learning levels, but challenged each individual at their own level. Groupings changed every few weeks so that students weren’t identified at any particular level. She believes that is how they built confidence in students. It reinforced learning and allowed students to have freedom.
“As a teacher myself I really appreciate the concept of “hands on” and use it all the time in my classroom,” Auld added.
Ashley (Pleiman) Twedt also remembers the Dettras “hands on” teaching. She especially enjoyed the project where they had their own business and made and kept checkbooks. It involved math and business as well as the practical use of a checkbook.
Twedt said she uses the “”hands on approach with her elementary students in Bellville. She teaches as an intervention specialist and knows the importance of working closely with each individual at their own level.
Parent and Mount Gilead Elementary Art Teacher, Robin Conrad’s two older boys had Dettras. Conrad was very appreciative of Dettras work with Destination Imagination, which went to the state completion this year.
Conrad was especially touched at the Dettras caring. A fourth grade girl confided in Conrad that she was afraid to go to Dettra’s class because ‘that’s where all the smart kids went.’ Conrad said she talked to the girl later that fall and she said, ‘you won’t believe it — I’m so smart!’
“The Dettras built children’s confidence,” Conrad said. “That is their special ability.”
Erin Kelty worked with Rhonda for four years as a Kiwanis “K Kids” advisor. Kelty said she has never seen a teacher get so involved and care so much about kids as Rhonda does. She said she saw both Pete and Rhonda go ‘way above and beyond’ the duties usually required by teachers.
“But caring could also mean discipline, following instructions and learning,” Kelty said. “I saw Pete get very concerned with kids sometimes and he made sure they toed the line.”
Kelty recalled how Rhonda worked very hard to make sure children understood the K Kids program. She took the time to discuss values one on one if that was needed. When she found someone doing something dishonest, she would pull kids aside and talk with them.
“They always had fun in class too. That is something they always seemed to manage to do along with their teaching,” said Kelty with a smile. “They are amazing and they will be missed.”