There was never a time when she didn’t want to be a teacher. She began teaching summer school when she was in eighth grade where she taught a boy how to read. In high school, she had the …
There was never a time when she didn’t want to be a teacher. She began teaching summer school when she was in eighth grade where she taught a boy how to read. In high school, she had the opportunity to teach a classroom full of second graders. Then she moved on to teach in the Quad Cities in Iowa where she experienced the desegregation of schools and built lasting relationships with her students.
After retiring in 2015, she spent more time at home with her beloved husband. But, she knew she wasn’t quite done with teaching. Now, she’s back in the classroom.
This year at Powell Middle School, Myra LaFrentz has returned to the classroom. Filling in for Amanda Johnston, who had to step back from teaching for the rest of the year, LaFrentz is teaching sixth grade social studies and is creating interactive lessons for her students to learn from and enjoy.
“I love kids,” LaFrentz said. “That is my main reason for being here and I would hope that when they left me they not only would be knowledgeable of the content, but they would have developed the skills and attitudes that will help them to be successful and be better people.”
Her love for teaching stems from her family history in the realm of education. Almost every woman in her family was a teacher. LaFrentz’s personality and motivation has shaped her to be a teacher.
Though building a relationship with every student is difficult, she always has and will continue to try to make a difference in each one of her student’s lives.
“You choose to love, you may not like what he or she does but you can love the person and sometimes that you least want to love are the ones that need it the most,” LaFrentz said
Her various stories and experiences shed light on different aspects of history. LaFrentz taught during the desegregation of schools which was a time that was full of tension and uncertainty.
LaFrentz taught three Black girls during this time. Looking back, LaFrentz realizes how brave these girls had to be to attend a mostly all white school in Waterloo, Iowa. Despite the tension in America, she remembers everyone showing nothing but kindness to these girls.
“I didn’t realize at the time what a traumatic experience it must have been [for those girls,] and the faith that those parents had in me to let me have their children for a year,” LaFrentz said. “It did not go as well for some other teachers.”
LaFrentz has been teaching for many decades, and she has taught an array of subjects for a variety of age levels including reading, language arts, social studies and even childbirth classes at a junior college. At the post-secondary education level, LaFrentz taught masters level education courses at the University of Northern Iowa. Inevitably, she pursued the role of an instructional facilitator and then an educational consultant.
Whatever LaFrentz was teaching at the time was what she loved most. Her lessons take an interdisciplinary approach which in short means it combines a mixture of different subjects. She combines art, speaking and listening skills and language arts together for her sixth grade social studies course. Although the quality of her material is essential to her instruction, the relationships with her students is what led her to become successful in the classroom.
“Content for teachers is important but the relationships are more important,” LaFrentz said. “You can teach till the cows come home, but if you don’t have a relationship with that kid, you’re not going to be as successful as you could be.”
Even though expectations post Covid are different for students, her approach to educating her students hasn’t changed. LaFrentz believes staying current with what is going on in education is the key to being the best educator you can be. Developing lessons reminds her of creating a tapestry where she combines learning and fun. Currently, her sixth graders are developing artistic presentations of the content they are learning, and then teaching their peers what they’ve learned. LaFrentz calls it, “being teacher for a day.”
When LaFrentz initially retired four years ago, she knew she wasn’t finished teaching. After being back in the classroom for several months, she’s elated to be back with the students and have the opportunity to let her creative juices flow again.
“I just think what a joy it is to teach [again] and how thankful I am that Mr. Rohrer believed in me to invite me to come in and teach,” LaFrentz said.