By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Terry Shrout typically encounters a familiar face anywhere he goes in Keizer.
It’s not surprising considering that he’s taught the equivalent of nearly a third of the city’s population, 9,300 students, in 35 years as a middle school science teacher.
“The faces have always changed just enough that I have to ask names, but even when I go to Portland, I’ve met students who were in one of my classes,” Shrout said.
Shrout found his way to teaching not long after finishing college, but it was something of a watershed moment.
“I went through college thinking I would pursue a graduate degree and it wasn’t for a few months afterward that I thought, ‘Duh, why don’t I just teach?” he said.
Part of him hoped, and expected, that he would end up with a high school classroom, but he was assigned to Whiteaker Middle School where he quickly discovered a kinship with the students’ eagerness and curiosity.
“It can be the most difficult and traumatic time in a person’s life – it was hard for me – but there’s so much they haven’t been exposed to yet and so much they are discovering about themselves,” he said. “This age group is so moldable in terms of the decisions they’re making that will help determine who they are as adults.”
Shrout taught for 24 years at Whiteaker, including a six-month stint helping open a new school in Kenya, and was asked to help plan a new science department at Claggett Creek Middle School 11 years ago. At the time, Shrout planned to simply assist in the effort of opening the new school, but the more time he spent around the site while it was being constructed, the more enamored he became with the idea of helping it take off and that attachment led to him transferring.
In three-and-a-half decades, Shrout said the biggest change he’s experienced has been the changing roles of schools.
“Schools have become so much more than they used to be. We have kids that don’t have supplies and kids that have a hard time getting here. They’re homeless, you name it. We’ve become that stable factor in so many other areas than English and science and math,” he said.
Given the nature of the change, he said it’s more important than ever to equip schools with the human resources necessary to keep pace.
“The counselors do a good job of keeping us up-to-date with the student’s home life, but having additional people in the building that can work with students one-on-one, having people that can check with homes and make appointments for kids to see an optometrist … those are things we don’t have time to deal with as teachers,” Shrout said.
It should be noted that Shrout’s experiences with such trials aren’t limited to his own, his wife, Bettyjo, is an instructional assistant at Kennedy Elementary School, his daughter, Melissa, is a school counselor in Bismarck, N.D., and his son, Jonathan, has taught alongside him at Claggett Creek the past several years. Even his brother works for the school district.
In addition to teaching, Shrout has been a coach in the Panthers’ after school sports programs. It gives him an opportunity to catch some of the students who fall through the cracks in the classroom.
“You can build them up out there and watch them improve in the classroom,” he said.
While he won’t have a single classroom to call his own anymore, Shrout is far from turning in his whiteboard.
“I feel like I’m retiring from my job, but not my calling. My calling is to continue working with young people and keep moving them down the road, and working with staff,” he said.
He plans to work locally with a group of retired educators, EXTRA (Experienced Teacher Rendering Assistance), who provide in-class assistance and travel to Singapore and Indonesia this summer to provide instructional assistance along the lines of what he did in Kenya.
In both instances, he’ll carry with him the biggest lesson from a lifetime as an educator:
“No two students are ever alike,” he said. “Everybody’s unique in some way and that’s really kind of cool. It’s important, as a teacher, to remember that and not make any assumptions.”