BEAR RIVER HIGH – By Ellen Cook – April 24, 2020
If you ask husband and wife educators, Steve and Emalee Meyer, why they got into teaching, you will get the same answer.
“It’s an opportunity to be of service,” Steve said. “Teaching is not an easy profession, but it is worth it.”
He should know. He will retire from Bear River High School’s Science Department next month, after teaching there for 28 years. His wife, Emalee, who retired last year after teaching for 42 years, 23 of those in Family and Consumer Science at BRHS, shares his passion for the career choice they have in common, a choice that culminated in a combined 70 years of preparing young minds for the world.
In a roundabout way, teaching is what brought the two together. Steve, a native of Blanding, Utah, was a young man working in the flooring trade when a vivacious, single teacher from Nibley, Utah, came to town to work at San Juan High School. The two met at a church event and soon married.
When installing flooring became hard on his body, Steve sought for something else to do, something that would make a different.
He settled on teaching.
“When I looked around at the people in Blanding and those who had made a difference in my life, I was most impressed with the teachers I had had,” he recalled.
There was a little influence from his family tree, as well - a grandmother who taught school and several uncles who were professors. And of course, there was his wife.
Steve went back to school, finishing up his degree at Utah State University. He even did his student teaching at Bear River High School in 1990. The following year he returned to the school to begin his teaching career in the Science Department. He has spent nearly 30 years teaching biology and earth science.
Emalee followed him into the classroom just a few years later in 1995. She had been working as a substitute teacher off and on and was asked by the district to finish out the school year for a teacher who had passed away that December. She was hired to fill that vacancy fulltime the next year as the home economics teacher.
Since then the name has changed but the instruction she gives is pretty much the same – child development, interior design, adult roles, clothing, foods and fashion design.
It was a bit of a novelty, but not unusual, to have a married couple teaching together. While they both worked at the same school, they seldom conversed with each other, except for their daily commute.
“Oh, we might see each other in the office,” she laughed, “but we were on opposite ends of the school. I was in the Tremonton part and he was in the Garland part.”
Some of their students would get brave enough to ask about the relationship between the two, but some never did catch on.
One advantage of that commute time was the “chance to download on each other,” Emalee said. “It was interesting to find out we often had the same students and how different they were in my class compared to Steve’s class.”
To add to the fun, they had the opportunity to teach each of their four children over the past years, although they confess those children did not often let on to their peers of that relationship.
With so many years in the classroom, the two have seen many changes take place, some of them easy, some of them hard.
“There are more requirements, more they want you to do,” Steve said of the changes. “There is more scheduling, and each new administration brings about even more differences.”
For Emalee, the biggest change over the years came within the students themselves.
“I think it’s attitude,” she said. “They don’t seem to want to learn now. And parents are not as involved as they used to be. They just don’t care. Oh, there are some who are wonderful and good and want to be good, but most just want to pass the class and then get out and work.”
Steve agrees. “Certain students seem more grateful to be in the class than others.”
He said, with the mandated soft closure of schools due to the COVID-19 crisis, the teaching opportunities are becoming nearly impossible, at the detriment to those he hopes to teach. The online instruction means no personal contact, something he took very seriously with his students, usually 32 per class, in each of five classes every day.
“I have 27 kids I have never heard from since this started,” he noted. He was getting 10 to 12 emails a day from students with homework assignments and questions, but even that changed last week.
“When they announced that we were not going back to school this year, it dropped off even more. Now I don’t get any emails.”
He feels some concern, both for teachers and students, when school resumes in the fall.
“It’s going to be pretty rough,” he said. “There are those who are excited to get back to school but it is going to be really hard for most to go back after five months off.”
It is like retiring on a bit of a low note, Steve admitted. Many aspects of his last year would be different if the students were in his classroom.
“There are projects they were unable to do, plants they will never plant. It was the first part of the trimester and I didn’t even get to know all my students yet.”
While he will miss the opportunity to shape those young scientists, Steve is looking forward to a slower pace, more time to “catch up on life,” complete waiting projects and do a little traveling.
“Teaching is a 24/7 job and somethings get put on the back burner so you can do school,” Steve said.
Even with the one-year head start his wife has on retirement, she too, finds it hard to move past what has been her life for nearly a half century.
“Being in education for 42 years, it is hard to turn your brain off,” she said. “Steve would come home from classes and talk, and I would think about what I would be doing. I have to learn not to think about it anymore because you aren’t the teacher now.”
The rewards of all those teaching years come back to visit every now and then, however, something both teachers continue to treasure.
“To have kids come up and say ‘Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Meyer,’ and not turn away from us is great,” Emalee said.
Steve added, “When you meet some of your students after high school and they thank me for what they learned and for being in my class, that is the reward. We never know just how far our influence goes.”
“Teaching was a great experience,” Emalee concluded. “It’s been a good ride.”