There are more than 300 staff members around Rockwood School District who were Rockwood students during their K-12 years. "Then and Now" is a series that highlights some of their stories and what has made Rockwood special to them as both students and educators.Lisa Ortinau, Lauren Gorham, Jennifer Gianino and Jennifer Phelps; Blevins Elementary third-grade teachers
The Rockwood roots run deep on Blevins Elementary's team of third-grade teachers.
Jennifer Gianino and Lisa Ortinau both met their future husbands in elementary school, Gianino at Eureka and Ortinau at Pond. Jennifer Phelps' brother went to Pond with Ortinau. Lauren Gorham frequently runs into teachers she had at Rockwood Summit, including district Coordinator Literacy K-5 and Title Programs Dr. Stefanie Steffen.
This year, every third grader at Blevins is being taught by a Rockwood graduate. None of the four teachers could imagine making their careers in any other district.
"This is where I wanted to come back to," Gorham said. "I knew that, once I graduated college, Rockwood was my top choice."
Gianino, whose husband, Ralph, also went K-12 through Eureka and now teaches physical education at the high school
, is in her first year teaching in the district. Gorham is in her sixth. Ortinau is in her 20th, Phelps her 27th, and the two started at Blevins together 16 years ago. Two of Phelps' former students are now also teachers in the district: Alyssa Franke at Uthoff Valley Elementary
and Holly Conroy at Eureka Elementary
"They'll come up to me and say, 'You're the reason I wanted to become a teacher.' Those are the things that matter the most," Phelps said. "You're invested. You've gone through the system, made connections with teachers and administrators, and it's neat for me to be able to give back and continue those relationships with parents and their kids."
Ortinau's first job in the district was at Pond, and the principal who hired her, Clare Maguire, was her principal growing up. Ortinau also taught in the classroom next door to Dr. Dave Cobb, currently the district's executive director elementary education.
The educational emphases have changed since back then, but the quality of the district has remained.
"We're teaching how to explore, find, think, communicate and interact," Ortinau said. "We're doing so much more in character education: how to be respectful and responsible."
Moments and mementos from all four teachers' experiences as Rockwood students still resonate with them. One of these is a copy of "Where the Sidewalk Ends," which the English teacher at Lafayette who Phelps cadet taught for as a senior gave and dedicated to her and which Phelps still has. Another is how Gianino's fourth-grade teacher left her class "in suspenders" at the end of read-aloud time each day: a play on words for leaving the students "in suspense."
At the beginning of this year, Gianino made sure to let her third-graders know she'll keep a full supply of figurative suspenders on hand.
"I can still so vividly remember her perching on the side of the desk and we were all sitting there, hanging on every word," Gianino said. "I remember those teachers who lived in our community. I would see them outside of school, and I thought that was so cool. Now, I'm that person."