MCC teacher: a ‘yes’ vote is a vote for home

April 26, 2023

MCC teacher: a ‘yes’ vote is a vote for home

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Dear Editor,

“There’s no place like home.” Judy Garland’s famous words from the 1939 American classic The Wizard of Oz ring in my mind as voters in our district prepare for the upcoming May 2 bond. Simply put, a yes vote is a vote for home.

Teenager Dorothy Gale, played by Garland in the film, clicks her heels and wakes up in her bed with the realization that, “…if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard….” I am a teacher at Mason County Central High School, a parent with two kids in the district, MCC Education Association president, class advisor of the Class of 2024, Quiz Bowl coach, School Improvement Team member, mentor teacher to CTE’s Education Academy Students, and mentor to a colleague at MCC High School. I taught at a couple other districts before landing my dream job. It’s only now, after five years at MCC, that I am truly beginning to understand the depth and nuance of the word “home.”

At its most basic level, a home is a thing. In my family’s case, a house on a busy road in Hamlin Township. However, our dream home is somewhere in the MCC School District. I’m all in for MCC. I decided that if I am going to work for this wonderful district, I want my taxes to contribute to it. We also want to own some property where our little Spartans have a huge backyard to run, play, and explore as they grow and go to school with their neighbors.

At MCC, I learned that home is also a place: Mason County Central and the greater Scottville area. In August of 2018, I came home to MCC when I accepted the job of retiring teacher Mrs. Linnea Miller. I was so excited to begin teaching English in the same classroom in which I took several English classes with Ms. Kathy Hansen, in the district from which I proudly graduated in 2002. Three generations of my father’s side of the family have lived in MCC’s district; four if you count me and my siblings growing up in Amber Township. However, I realized when I arrived in 2018 that little has changed in the original 1957 part of the high school since I graduated in 2002, including my assigned classroom. I noticed how the restrooms in B and C halls have never been remodeled, and the original 1950s tile wearily greets our almost 400 students daily. I also noticed how the overabundance of single-pane glass, fashionable in the middle of the last century.  In this current century haunted by an era of mass shootings, that glass is wholly unsafe.

Despite the tired facility, I was energized by being home and ready to teach our students. In addition to teaching, I attended numerous school and community events since I came home  (graduations, CommUnity Auctions, basketball games, band concerts, and football games, the Harvest Festival, and 10&31 Festival, etc) and realized how much I enjoy spending time with students, their families, and our greater community.  It is after attending these events and working in the building that I am discovering the deepest, most nuanced definition of home.

Home is much bigger than a thing we live in or the place it is located. I believe home refers to people, relationships, and community. I am most at home when I am with the people of this community: helping their teens grow and learn, bringing my twins to an event or to play on a playground, and celebrating together when our new adults cross that stage in our sweltering 15-year-old new gym. I am home at MCC, where students and adults make me feel loved, safe, and valued. Those feelings are the deepest meaning of home.

A yes vote on May 2 is a vote for home, an investment in our people and our community. I urge voters: make a plan to get to the polls between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on May 2 and approve this bond, so that all Spartans will be loved, safe, and valued. Students already enter their classrooms each morning and hopefully feel loved when they are greeted by MCC’s caring and capable professional educators. But these students and teachers need the voters’ help. The district cannot make these improvements on its own, and like any house, it needs to be updated to be safer and relevant.

Students will feel and be safer after voters approve this bond. They will enter our better-secured buildings with a double entrance (and in the high school get rid of that unsafe glass in the halls). As teachers, we are trained to handle active shooter situations. I absolutely would stand in the gap for my students because I love them. But…I also want to go home to my family. I didn’t realize 15 years ago when I entered the profession that so much of my energy would be spent on active shooter training. I want to spend the maximum amount of mental and emotional energy teaching and inspiring students. As a teacher, I want more peace of mind knowing that my work environment is as safe as it can be. As a parent, I want my own children’s learning environment at MCC to be as safe as possible. Our children are our community’s most precious resource.

And finally, students will feel valued when they enter a school that is updated and relevant to their 21st century learning needs. Modernized classrooms, including a Community Events Center that will be fully utilized by drama, band, forensics, and high school classes will show students how much our community values their learning. We are one of three schools in our Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) district of 24 schools that doesn’t have an auditorium (and one of three in our West Michigan Conference athletic and activities conference of 14 schools that does not). This isn’t “keeping up with the Joneses.” This bond seeks to provide our students with the necessary facilities in the 21st century to compete in their global environment.

Adding a Community Event Center also brings a positive local economic impact to the City of Scottville. Some people who see downtown Scottville today rightfully feel nostalgic as they think of the post-WWII economic explosion Scottville enjoyed in the past. Those same people may feel defeated when they drive through downtown today. Not me. I see nothing but potential. The Community Event Center has the potential to attract events, acts, and school performances (like the Jazz concert last week that was standing room only at WSCC’s Center Stage Theater). People who attend these events could then provide an influx of cash to local businesses as they dine and drink at our great local establishments such as: The ‘Ville, North Country Cafe, R&T’s Colossal Kitchen, The Jolly Plate, The Bottle and Can, North Branch Winery, or Doc’s Sauble River Inn. Approving the bond is a win-win-win for the district, the students, and the entire community.

As parents and community members, now is the time to step up and vote yes for our home. I urge voters: make a plan to get to the polls between 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on May 2 and approve this bond, so that all Spartans will be loved, safe, and valued.

Respectfully,

Becky Gerhart

High School English teacher

District parent

MCC Education Association president

MCC Class of 2002

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