Hundreds turn out to honor retiring teacher
Phil Jeannin's retirement party very well could have taken place at Herington rather than Tonganoxie.
Herington, after all, was the central Kansas town where Jeannin took his first physical education teaching job out of college.
Jeannin taught there during the 1973-74 school year, starting the school's first physical education program.
But the next year he had the opportunity to teach physical education at Tonganoxie, his alma mater.
He's been home ever since.
"I'm not sure whether I wouldn't still have been out there, except I had the opportunity to come home," said Jeannin, who turned 58 Monday.
Last week, roughly 200 friends, family and former students gathered at the Tonganoxie High School west campus to celebrate a reception honoring Jeannin's years of service.
The longtime teacher instructed students for 34 years, but decided it was time to retire from teaching. He still will be a part of the school, as he will retain his job as Tonganoxie Middle School activities director. And, he'll still coach junior high track and teach driver's education courses, as well as help Tonganoxie High School activities director Brandon Parker with his activities. Jeannin also mows lawns on the side.
For a teacher who, as most people know is always on the go, it's a pretty good fit -- retired, but not quite.
"It will be an adjustment in the winter," Jeannin said, noting he'll be able to stay busy in the fall and spring. "I'll have to do some different things.
"I might do some subbing in some other schools if it doesn't affect my AD duties."
Generation after generation
Teachers who stay at one school much of their careers, if they're lucky, have the opportunity to teach the children of some of their original students.
Such was the case for Jeannin.
"On Friday, the last day, over the lunch hour, I was out there (in the middle school commons area), and they had me talk a minute," Jeannin said. "At every one of the lunch tables, I had at least one of my former students who had a child there -- at every table. And I thought at was pretty neat.
"And I think that was the neatest thing about teaching here so many years, you get to see so many of your former students."
Jeannin chalks that special opportunity up to living in smaller community.
"And basically to me, that's why the smaller school is nice," he explained. "You seem to know everybody a little bit better and it's more relaxed."
The longtime physical education instructor recalled one student a few years ago, who now is a junior, calling him "Coachie" the first day of classes. That, Jeannin said, was the nickname one of the students' parents called Jeannin by when the parent was in school.
Jeannin actually went to school for much of his career in the Jarbalo school district, but Jarbalo consolidated with Tonganoxie just before Jeannin's senior year, 1966-67.
After graduating from THS, he attended Emporia State and graduated in December 1971.
At Tonganoxie, Jeannin taught elementary and then junior physical education. He also taught much of his career in the junior high ranks, but one year, during the 1991-92 school year, he taught junior varsity girls basketball. His youngest daughter, Andie, was born in 1991. She will be a sophomore at THS next school year.
That certainly was a busy time, but Jeannin's not one to stand still.
While teaching in Tonganoxie, he got to know former physical education instructors Phil and Marilyn Lobb.
Jeannin recalled when he first started teaching at THS, Marilyn always was making sure the gymnasium was clean.
After Marilyn retired, she came back to visit the former junior high, where Jeannin and another Tonganoxie native, LeAnn (Meadows) Bond, were in the gymnasium.
"I was sweeping along the edges of the gym, and Marilyn yells at me," Jeannin said. "Marilyn Lobb, I'm just doing what you used to do. LeAnn is shaking her head at me like I used to shake my head at you."
Jeannin said he looked up to the Lobbs, and thoroughly enjoyed working with many teachers who have been in the Tonganoxie school district for many years. Barb Gurss, another Tonganoxie PE instructor, is one of Jeannin's favorites as well.
Along with the Lobbs, Jeannin mentioned former instructor Jerry McPherson as another former teacher who inspired him.
"They're probably the people that had the big influence on me, besides my mom and dad," Jeannin said. "Because I was probably the only one who ever wanted to be a teacher, of the brothers" (his siblings).