In today’s Daily Times Herald we have a Page 1 feature on Sandy Edwards, a highly respected teacher who recently retired from Fairview Elementary School after a four-decades-long career. (She’s still an active substitute so her presence remains in the school she continues to help shape.)
Mrs. Edwards taught about a thousand kids in her career, but if you listen to her former students, some speaking to us 25 years or more after their own third-grade experiences, one would think they were the only kids in the class, such was Edwards’ special skills at making individual students feel special.
Mrs. Edwards is certainly the protagonist in our feature. But the story is as much about the education family she and her husband, Ted, built.
My sister, Jane Burns Lawson, now a teacher herself in Des Moines, wrote a moving “Reflections” piece that accompanies our Edwards profile. Mrs. Edwards, with her wonderfully nurturing style in the classroom, reached Jane at a crucial time in her life, as our parents were going through a divorce. Over at Carroll High School, around the same time, Ted Edwards, a gifted history teacher who commanded attention (and genuine interest) and made the 1920s or 1940 jump to life in young minds in a way that would be the envy of plenty of biopic filmmakers, did the same for me.
Ted’s approach to teaching is strikingly different from his wife’s but equally effective. He knew instinctively the kids who needed to be challenged and pressed — and in my case, confronted with winning alternative arguments at times, many times, in fact.
Our family owes the Edwardses a great deal for those years of commitment in the classroom. I suspect we are not alone in this. Ask around the Carroll Community Schools family, go two and even three generations deep, and Ted and Sandy are short-listed in an accounting of influential teachers — the ones whose words or deeds surface in our lives all these years later, often to the point where one feels compelled to call them and offer thanks for a nugget of insight with remarkable staying power.
“I feel like I have a lot of friends from the kids I have had in class,” Mrs. Edwards told us. “I just feel like they’re definitely part of my life. I think they will always be part of yourself.”
The Edwardses’ education story doesn’t stop with Sandy and Ted.
All three of their kids are now in education, with substantive resumes of their own.
Carroll is fortunate to have Tyler Edwards, now the dean of students at Kuemper Catholic High School and the boys basketball coach there. He took the Knights to state last year — following up on an earlier state run he had as head man with the Battle Creek-Ida Grove Falcons. His passion for competition is contagious.
Through their other two children, the Edwardses have exported education quality.
Their daughter Kelly is a K-4 principal in Noblesville, Ind., and son Brad is an English teacher and coach at Fort Dodge High School.
To a person the Edwardses are bright and engaging and certainly have the skills to pursue more prosperous careers than K-12 education.
But they didn’t.
Sandy knew she wanted to be a teacher as a little girl growing up in Storm Lake.
She fell in love with a natural teacher and married him.
And together they raised three educators.
What a gift.
For all of us.