MEIGS COUNTY — Between them, they have 69 of experience in public education.
And now, Meigs Local Schools’ beloved Bookmans are retiring.
Rusty Bookman, superintendent of Meigs Local Schools and his wife, Lynn Bookman, will officially retire on May 31, 2016. They plan to remain in the area and help the school in whatever way they can, along with enjoying more time with their children and grandchildren.
Since his time at the University of Rio Grande, Rusty Bookman knew education would be the path that he would follow. As a 1981 graduate or URG, Rusty was hired June 15, 1981 as the Meigs Junior High Science teacher —a position he held through 1996. During some of his time as a junior high teacher, he also served as the boys’ basketball and football coach. And while Rusty said he loved being able to affect change at the classroom level, he wanted to take the next step to affect change at an even higher level — to positively affect even more students in the district.
From his position as a junior high science teacher, Rusty was then hired as a principal for Bradbury and Rutland Elementary Schools on Sept. 19, 1996. He continued his coaching career as well, focusing on basketball and serving as the seventh grade boys basketball coach, the boys middle school basketball coach and assistant varsity basketball coach.
After an extension of his contract on June 7, 2000, Bookman also served as the principal and safety coordinator for Bradbury and Rutland Elementary Schools, along with Middleport and Salem Center Schools. He also became a safety coordinator for Meigs Local effective March 14, 2001 — a position he held until 2009. In 2001, Salem Center students began attending Rutland’s elementary school, with Rusty now overseeing three schools as principal. He was also hired as the volunteer boys’ middle school eighth grade basketball coach for the 2002-2003 school year.
He continued his position as a principal, but transitioned to the role of principal over Meigs Intermediate School through 2009. During the 2009-2010 school year, he began his job as a federal grants coordinator. Finally, on May 25, 2010, he was hired as superintendent, effective Aug. 1, 2010. He held that position ever since.
Rusty said he’s proud of his time with each school he oversaw and cited Meigs Local’s archery team as one of the specific programs he’s proud to have seen grow. Started in 2004, the archery team was one of 12 pilot districts for the program, and has remained a success ever since with students even winning a national championship in 2008.
“It’s just a great program because it’s not your average niche program. It’s not your average Joe athlete,” he said. “It’s kids that have just found their niche.”
Rusty said that archery is just one example of children finding their niche and tied that into the importance of having kids involved at school.
“I think that’s the most important part about teachers anymore. If you want to have kids involved, they’ve got to have something to be connected with,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s archery, chess club or athletics.”
Along with observing that children with interests are less likely to drop out of school, Rusty said during his tenure, as technology has evolved, he’s also noticed a shift in the role teachers now play in the lives of students.
“You were the resource, and now you’re the facilitator of the learning now, instead of the resource,” he said. “I have no problem with it, as long as everybody understands what their new role is now. If you took chemistry (for example), you listened because (the teacher) was the knowledge, and now you go online…Just the accessibility of information, it’s mind boggling compared to where you used to be.”
And after all his years in teaching and administrating, in the end, Rusty said a school’s importance should always be placed on the students.
“Kids want to know that you care before they care what you know,” he said. “Because if they don’t feel safe, if they don’t know you care about them as a human being, you can have all the knowledge in the world that you want to impart on them, (it will not do any good unless children feel safe). In the hierarchy of needs, it’s safety first level. If you want to get them to self-actualization and synthesis and all that kind of stuff, you better make sure they know they’re comfortable and safe in your room.”
While her husband has held many positions during his tenure, Lynn Bookman’s passion — and career — has always been focused on second grade students. She began her career as a second grade teacher at Harrisonville Elementary School from August 1982 to 2002, when she became a second grade teacher at Meigs Primary — the position she’ll hold until the end of this school year.
She met Rusty during their time together at Rio Grande, where the pair both learned what their future careers would be.
“I found out kids were my passion in college,” she said.
And children have remained her passion to this day. According to Lynn, one of the most rewarding aspects of being a second grade teacher is the growth of each student.
“Their growth is amazing to me,” she said.
In particular, along with a growth in maturity, the growth of a second grade student’s ability to read and do math from the beginning of the year to the second is one of the greatest things about her position. She cited the Accelerated Reading program as one of the best programs offered by Meigs Local, and said that it “100 percent” helps with the reading growth of her students.
“I’ll never forget what one of my (AR) students said,” Lynn said. “He said ‘I know that you guys read better than most adults…mom and dad, all they do is read their cell phones. They don’t read anything else, and we read books.’”
Not only does Lynn see the growth in knowledge of her students, but she also sees their literal growth, as some of her former students now have their own children in her class — many of them placed in Lynn’s class by specific request. Lynn said she finds this touching.
“It makes me feel honored that they requested me,” she said.
Lynn said that current first grade teacher Joy Hysell will be taking her position come next year, and she hoped that Hysell realizes what a great group of kids she’ll have the honor to be teaching.
“I think second grade is unique because second grade teachers work together as a team to prepare the kids for third grade,” she said. “(The students) make me laugh every day. I’m going to miss laughing every day. I am going to miss that they do make me laugh every day. They’re so cute.”
When asked what she’ll miss the most, Lynn simply said “their smiling faces.”
Reach Lindsay Kriz at 740-992-2155 EXT. 2555.