When Joella Reid finishes out the 2012-2013 school year, a member of the Reid family will have taught school in Kansas for 80 consecutive years.

When Joella Reid finishes out the 2012-2013 school year, a member of the Reid family will have taught school in Kansas for 80 consecutive years.

Reid officially began teaching in 1972 in Hume, Mo., the same year her mother, Helen, officially retired after a 40-year career as an educator. The road to a career in education was long, she said, and challenges she had to overcome along the way shaped her philosophy as a parent and a teacher.

Reid’s story began on her family farm near Oswego more than 60 years ago. Born to Helen and John Reid on June 10, 1949, Joella grew up in a family meager of means but full of love. Her mother became a teacher at the age of 17 and taught in one-room schoolhouses for $50 per month for 17 years until she landed a job at Neosho Heights Elementary School. Reid’s mother would often regale her with tales of showing up early to light the school’s coal-burning stove before the students arrived, of her dual duty as the coach of every sport and of neutralizing the ripe outhouse aroma with quicklime.

“She wasn’t just a teacher,” Reid said. “In those days, you did everything. She became a baseball fanatic.”

Her father was forced to quit school after eighth grade so he could find work to support the family. He worked hard in manual labor jobs, Reid said, but was always supportive of her education.

“My dad always emphasized the importance of education,” Reid said. “He was a very intelligent man, just not an educated one, and there was never any acceptance of me not doing my best.”

That wasn’t always easy. Reid grew up with dyslexia, before much research had been done on learning disabilities.

“They didn’t educate students with learning disabilities, they just taught you a trade and you went off to find a factory job, if you were lucky,” Reid said. “Learning disabilities wasn’t even a term developed then.”

It was her mother, she said, who knew something was keeping her from excelling in the classroom. She retained stories and lessons well enough, but she just couldn’t grasp the written word and mathematics. So she developed her own learning plan, and was eventually able to read. That persistent love and caring, and the understanding of what it is like to have to overcome significant challenges, has helped shape Reid’s own philosophy as a teacher, she says, especially as she sees students who come from single-parent homes or worse.

“I was lucky that both of my parents cared about education, and I never had to worry about going without food,” she said after a rowdy social studies class Monday afternoon. “If all I get is some bad behavior from some of the students, that’s just fine. ”

It has also helped her ability to spot children who are possibly struggling because of a disability, and to help them get around it.

“It’s not always easy, because they develop coping mechanisms to get around the work,” she said. “I tell them ‘That doesn’t fly with me, because I know what you can accomplish.’ I expect them to work and learn the subject, because I know they can, and I help them with that.”
Reid graduated from then-Kansas State College of Pittsburg in 1972 and began her career teaching music in Hume, Mo., a job she said baptized her with fire.

“It was so much worse than anything here will ever be,” Reid laughed. “The previous three teachers just up and walked out. I was the first teacher in three years who lasted a whole year.”

The rest of her career has been spent entirely at PCMS. In her nearly 40 years there, Reid has seen her share of changes. When she started in 1973, the school was still home to Pittsburg High School and then-Roosevelt Junior High. Back then, now-Lakeside Elementary School was still Lakeside Junior High, and was the more coveted job among teachers.

“They were seen as the more hoity toity school with the better-behaved kids,” Reid said, adding that her time in Hume had toughened her. “They kept saying ‘Oh, we’ll get you over there next year.’ But I didn’t mind at all.”

Since then she has taught vocal music, English, communication and social studies, among other subjects, and has witnessed the passing of six district superintendents, seven principals and 14 assistant principals.

“All under the same roof,” she said.

The reason she has lasted so long, she said, is the satisfaction she derives from her work.

“I’ve had the opportunity to teach every subject for which I’m certified and which I love, and I’ve had thousands of wonderful students,” Reid said, adding that one of her former students now teaches across the hall from her. “I take great pride in their accomplishments, and I love it when they come back to visit me and tell me I made a difference. That’s really what it’s all about. I like to say ‘I taught the future I teach.’ You never really know where your influence ends.”