Guest Column: Kym Ries 2016.09.08


I have loved reading books since I was a little kid. In fact, breaking life into chapters has always seemed very logical. It’s a great way to organize the big events and mile markers of the days,like selecting a career, retiring and changing careers, for instance. 

Chapter 10: College Decisions

During the springtime of sophomore year of college, (Central Michigan, 1980), a major and minor area of study had to be determined. No more checking off the “undecided” blank on the forms.

I started with the process of elimination, tossing away careers I knew I didn’t want to do for a living. Photojournalist,I did not want to be awakened in the middle of the night to take photos of burning buildings. 

Flight attendant—a height of five feet was not tall enough according to the job requirements. Veterinarian—not with those chemistry grades! How about teaching? My parents were teachers and had a good life, summer vacations never had to end…decision made! Teacher it was.

Chapters 11-15: The Teacher Years

Teaching really was the right career for me. I love writing curriculum—often around a theme. Team teaching fifth grade with Lorraine Pillow found us learning to hula and exploring all aspects of Hawaiian history and culture. Research and reading books about cultures and their artists provided me with plenty of art lessons about Italy, France, Latin America, and Everything as Art: Japan.

The partnership between the Stair District Library and the school kept me well supplied with even more themes including Barn Again!, Sculptamania!, and the soon-to-be unveiled Smithsonian Institution’s Hometown Teams exhibit— which ironically I taught year, so student art would be ready for October and November of this year.

Teaching was a great fit while raising a family. My two kids attended Morenci schools and we were always on the same schedule. Some days when 30 students were marching out of the classroom and my own two were traipsing in, already bickering about something, I wasn’t feeling the “how-lucky-am-I vibes mentioned above, but summers, weekends, and work days that ended by 3:30 were the best when shared with your own little ones.

Then there were the students. Our Bulldogs—big and small—made for some great storyline! As the art teacher for the past decade or so, I have been truly amazed by our students’ talent, patience and persistence when creating art. I will cherish their kindness and respect towards me, and won’t forget their sense of humor. High school kids are hilarious.

Chapter 16: Retirement (a/k/a State Line Observer business manager !?)

I’m going to blame or credit my brother, Scott, for this chapter. His life story often seems to be filled with a lot more adventure than mine. He can be found on a sailboat on Chesapeake Bay or waving from a Mardi Gras float in New Orleans. He makes me think about my own experiences.

I’ve been a teacher since I was 22 years old, maybe it’s time for a new adventure–how about newspaper office business manager? That’s gotta be exciting! Fortunately, I was able to “try on” the job for a few weeks before making the switch.

I find the Observer office challenging, ever-changing, and a fun place to spend a few hours each week. It’s kind of like the hour each day when a teacher gets to plan lessons instead of teaching students, known as our “prep hour,” but it lasts all day, every day!

I’m not sure how long it’s going to take before I stop pinning great art lessons on Pinterest, and I know seeing my students and colleagues less often will be difficult, but I’m looking forward to this new chapter, and hopefully the ones to come. 

But I will definitely be missing those teacher chapters when that first snow day arrives!