Ted Edwards, an iconoclastic Carroll High School educator known for his high-energy and current events-infused teaching style and colorful coaching personality, is drawing plaudits from around the nation this week from former students and admirers. Carroll High School alums and others, in interviews with this newspaper and in hundreds of posts on social media, are recalling the beloved history teacher’s takes on Reagan and Nixon, Carter and Kennedy — and Edwards’ delightfully endless folksy fount of stories on such things as the bland, sugar-deprived World War II-era Kool-Aid of his youth.
Edwards, 78, of Carroll passed away unexpectedly on Friday, Feb. 17, at St. Anthony Regional Hospital. In recent years he had battled cancer and additional ailments, and had a bout before his death with the flu, one of his sons, Tyler Edwards, said.
“I think he was a tremendous educator,” Tyler Edwards said. “He really reached the kids, even kids for whom school wasn’t their thing. There were probably not too many boring times in his class.”
One of the students Edwards had early in his career, Coon Rapids pharmacist Dan Pomeroy, CHS Class of 1975, went on to a long career in officiating. During his Carroll High School days, Pomeroy served as a team manager for the Tigers boys basketball team while Edwards was an assistant.
“I still have never heard as many good lines out of one coach as I did out of him in four years,” Pomeroy said.
Once, Pomeroy recalled, an official called a technical foul on Edwards for arguing a 3-seconds-in-the-lane violation in a basketball game.
The official told Edwards he better sit down and be quiet or he’d earn a second technical.
“I don’t think you can do that because you have already proven you can’t count to three,” Edwards said, according to Pomeroy who vividly recalls the episode 40 years later.
While he loved coaching, Edwards’ largest impact clearly came in the classroom, former students said.
“He was the consummate teacher,” Pomeroy said. “He sincerely cared about his pupils and whether they were learning the concept he was teaching.”
One of Edwards’ colleagues, James Knott, a former CHS teacher and the now-retired provost of the Des Moines Area Community College Carroll campus, said Edwards’ had an extraordinary talent for storytelling.
“Ted was always a good teacher and worked well with teachers — and we’ll miss him,” Knott said.
Angie Menchaca Alkilani, CHS Class of 1991, said that growing up without her dad, she looked to teachers as role models.
“I admired Mr. Edwards as a teacher and saw how he was as a father to Tyler and wished that my dad cared for me that way,” Alkilani said. “His kids were the apple of his eye, and you could tell that he cared about us as students as well. He entertained and engaged us away from a textbook and made us want to learn about history.”
Alkilani said Edwards’ influence gave her the desire to travel and discover history for herself.
“The first place I went when I left Iowa was to the Statue of Liberty,” she said. “I got to see firsthand so many things that I only dreamt about. After that I saw the Liberty Bell, where Washington crossed the Delaware. His stories piqued my interest in history. His death isn’t just a local loss, it’s a global one.”
Angie Jorgensen, CHS Class of 1992, said she was lucky to have both Edwards and his wife, Sandy, as teachers.
“That extra squeeze on the arm, literally a pat on the back, and a side bar after class, meant the world to me,” Jorgensen said. “Not only did they teach, they guided so many students through life moments. Mr. Edwards was a class act and great example for so many.”
Melissa Schlater Wolbers, CHS Class of 1993, said Edwards was her best teacher in high school.
“I remember his story about how he hated Kool-Aid,” Wolbers said. “His mom grew up during the Depression and would ration the sugar. She would cut the sugar in half, tasted terrible.”
Mindie Feld Simons, Kuemper Catholic High School Class of 1990, knew Edwards as as a coach as a child and as a KCHS parent. Tyler Edwards coached the Knights boys basketball for a time.
“He (Ted Edwards) truly loved us as kids and only wanted the best for us as adults, a true champion for all kids,” Simons said. “We enjoyed sitting near him when our son and his grandson played basketball together. He wasn’t afraid to call out a bad call and really wanted the kids to know when it wasn’t right and that they needed to keep playing hard. He never lost the love of the game and knew how it held so many life lessons that kids could learn from.”
Andy Walsh, CHS Class of 1996, said that as a dyslexic kid most teachers saw him as extra work. Not Ted Edwards.
“Mr. Edwards let us keep the books closed and just told stories and lectured. That’s how dyslexics learn,” Walsh said. “I can still practically recite lessons from Edwards.”