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.Brittany Meldrum, kindergarten, Green Pines Elementary; and Ryley Spiezio, mathematics, Rockwood Summit HighRockwood Schools AttendedMeldrum:
Green Pines, Ellisville Elementary
, Crestview Middle
, Lafayette HighSpiezio: Stanton Elementary
, Rockwood South Middle
, Rockwood SummitGrades Attended in RockwoodMeldrum:
Suzanne Meldrum and Debbie Spiezio were first-year teachers at Kellison Elementary
in 1986. They met in the school parking lot one day and became lifelong friends.
They moved on to Rockwood South Middle together in 1993 – Meldrum teaching language arts, Spiezio science – and their rooms were just down the hall from each other. Spiezio left Rockwood South in 1995, only to come back to the exact same room three years later. Meldrum left in 2001 to be at home with her children, only to return to Rockwood South in 2015.
To the exact same room.
"When I walked back in, I was like, 'They moved my furniture,'" Meldrum said. "With Debbie, it was like I'd never been away from her. It just felt so comfortable to come back to her. That's why if she thinks she's going to retire before me, it's not going to happen."
As Meldrum and Spiezio's friendship flourished, their families bonded. The Meldrum children would call the Spiezio children "cousins" and vice versa.
The middle children have followed in their mothers' footsteps as Rockwood teachers. Brittany Meldrum is in her second year teaching kindergarten at
Green Pines Elementary, and Ryley Spiezio is in his fourth year teaching mathematics at Rockwood Summit High after teaching three years at Eureka High.
"Watching the two of them working together, I want to work with somebody just as long and be part of their family, too," Brittany said. "It's something to look up to."
Brittany wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. She has been babysitting since she was 11 and has always loved working with kids.
Ryley came to the profession midway through college, after switching his major from engineering. He called Debbie, thinking that she would be disappointed about him changing course.
"She said, 'I figured you'd be a teacher someday,'" Ryley said. "I didn't know if you were going to be an engineer and then go into teaching or just go straight into teaching, but I figured it would happen.'"
Brittany and Ryley can always count on their moms for advice as they navigate their own careers in education, even when they're not necessarily seeking it. The feedback often comes in the form of a debriefing session after a tough day, with Suzanne or Debbie as a sounding board.
"They've been doing this so long that they understand what you're talking about," Ryley said. "They let you know this is what they've done in the past in situations like that. You just end up picking up on things by having normal conversations."
Brittany invites Suzanne to come read to her kindergarteners. Ryley, who used to help scout opponents for Debbie's Summit girls basketball teams growing up, is now an assistant for the Falcons' girls basketball and lacrosse teams. Debbie still serves as a girls golf assistant.
"Rockwood has meant a good foundation for my kids," Debbie said. "All three of them are very successful, and I don't think they would have their level of success if they didn't go to school in Rockwood. We have that Rockwood connection. It's deeper than acquaintances or people who work together. It's just more."
Ryley had his mother for science in sixth grade. He did his best not to draw attention to that fact in class and, when fellow students pointed out that he and the teacher had the same last name, he was not quick to confirm their relation.
A decade later at a career fair, he got to the front of the line at the Rockwood table. The recruiter, current Assistant Superintendent Human Resources Dr. Katie Reboulet, saw his nametag and asked if he knew Debbie Spiezio. Reboulet was Debbie's assistant principal at Rockwood Valley Middle for two years.
Leave your resume, she said. We'll call you.
"Rockwood is like a family," Brittany said. "Everybody knows everybody, somehow."