Banner Pattern News Detail
Staircase inside Ames High
May 20, 2024

Final Lessons

In the quiet moments before their final bell, a sense of anticipation filled the air. This was no ordinary end-of-year; it marked the last lessons of a group of dedicated teachers on the brink of retirement. Every word spoken carried the weight of decades of wisdom, shaping the minds and hearts of generations. As these educators prepared to close their grade books for the last time, we asked a few of them to reflect on their journeys, and to impart final words of encouragement, hope, and knowledge. This final lesson leaves behind a legacy etched not in stone, but in the bright futures of students they taught.

Teacher conducting orchestra students

Helen Park has been an elementary orchestra teacher with the Ames CSD for 25 years.

“What is orchestra to me and to my students? I would say orchestra should be joy and give motivation of learning. It makes me happy whenever the students say, ‘You are the best orchestra teacher.’ I wish the lessons of orchestra class would help them in their future lives.”

Park imparted her wisdom by recalling Plato’s words about the profound impact of music on education, expressing her belief in their timeless relevance.
“I would teach children Physics, Music and Philosophy,
But most importantly Music,
For in the pattern of Music and all the arts are the key to learn.”

AP European History, AP Government and Politics, and U.S. Government teacher Kirstin Sullivan has been with Ames schools for 29 years.

“I want students to remember that they can do hard things. That growth comes from struggle.  Don’t be afraid to take a challenging class or try something new.  And don’t be discouraged if it’s hard or if you do badly on a test or you don’t make the team on the first try.  That’s where the growth happens. I also want (students) to know that discovery can come when you allow yourself to be bored. Today, students always have their devices. Phones are great, but there’s a lot out there that is missed when we are constantly looking down. If you’re always connected, always stimulated, always receiving external messages, there’s no space for discovery. Out of boredom, comes curiosity, and curiosity can lead to great things.”

Teresa Testroet taught PreCalculus and Financial Algebra with the Ames CSD for 29 years.

“My hope is that my students continue to be lifelong learners and are open to ideas, opinions, and cultures different than their own.”

Joel Sullivan, a World Studies and US History teacher in the district for 26 years, also coached Girls Track, Girls Basketball, Football and was a sponsor for Science Olympiad.

“I think the thing that has really stuck with me over the years is the AHS motto. Ames Hi Aims High! Whether it’s a sports team, a school musical, a band concert, or debate team, Ames students demand nothing but the best from each other and from their coaches/sponsors,” said Sullivan. “Those expectations create an atmosphere of mutual respect, support and excellence that makes Ames High special. I tried my best to meet those expectations during my time here both as a coach and a teacher. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes I wasn’t, but I always was looking to grow as a professional.”

Reflecting further, Sullivan stated, “I think that’s the ‘final lesson’ I might talk about. Success and failure are often defined as absolutes. They are not. They operate together and often failures lead to success. I made a lot of mistakes as a young teacher and coach. I like to think that I learned from those and grew as a professional. As Maya Angelou once said ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.’ I think this quote is so powerful and important because it’s important to understand that we all have our flaws and we all make mistakes. If we apply this quote to what we do and how we live then, when we know that things are ‘off’ we can adjust and change and try to do better and be a better version of ourselves.”