Mary Zumwalt

Mary Zumwalt recently celebrated 40 years of teaching, including the last 30 years teaching fourth grade at Altamont Lutheran Interparish School.

By Kim Jansen

News Report Staff

Mary Zumwalt, of Altamont, has seen a lot of changes during her 40 years of teaching.

When she first began, she remembers making copies on a Ditto machine. But now the school office has a machine that copies, sorts and even staples her handouts.

Forty-years ago, there was one telephone in the office of the school. But now, mobile phones are everywhere.

And, forty-years ago when she taught lessons, she did so using a chalkboard, not near as advanced as the Smartboard she has in her classroom today.

But, some things are still the same, according to Zumwalt — like kids still don’t like carrots, peas or homework; and they still watch the clock for lunch and recess.

Yes, Zumwalt, who has spent the last 30 years of her 40-year career teaching at Altamont Lutheran Interparish School, said that many things have changed over her career. But her love for teaching and working with children has stayed the same.

“Teaching just isn’t a job,” said Zumwalt. “As a teacher, these kids become my life. I think about them, care for them, worry about them and love them. And once the school year ends, I just don’t stop thinking, caring, worrying or loving them. They have left an eternal mark on my life.”

Over 200 people came out Sunday to celebrate Zumwalt’s 40th anniversary of teaching during a dinner and open house honoring the milestone.

“It is more than I could have ever expected. So many people came, and I received so many calls and cards before the party,” said Zumwalt.

Ever since Zumwalt was in grade school, she knew that she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up.

“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher because I had such wonderful teachers all through public school,” said Zumwalt, who added she also was influenced by Rev. Zimmerman at St. John’s in Effingham and all of her Sunday School and Bible School teachers.

Although Zumwalt wasn’t always certain what she wanted to teach, she always knew teaching was for her.

After considering her options, Zumwalt felt like fourth grade was the best fit for her and the position at the Lutheran school made it the perfect fit — although she joked she would be in much better shape if she would have decided to teach physical education instead.

“ALIS is not only a school; it is a family,” said Zumwalt, adding she received so much support from the families and teachers at the school when her husband, Don, unexpectedly died 20 years ago. “I can’t say thank you enough to those that helped out with that and a lot of other things.”

Since coming to ALIS, Zumwalt has taught 696 students, including her own children, and this year, her grandson, Noah. She added she has seen several second generations in her classroom.

“I’ve had first and second generation kids, but I’m pretty sure I will retire before I get third generation kids, I think,” laughed Zumwalt.

At this time, Zumwalt has no plans to retire because she still loves what she does for a living.

“I really like what I do, and I want to keep doing it,” she said.

Some of the best memories of her career she keeps in file folders in her desk. Those files are filled with notes, homemade cards and other items given to her by her students.

“They always ask why I keep teaching, and I will hold up the file folders I have with all kinds of pictures and notes that students have written to me. When I have a bad day, I just get out the folder,” she said.

Zumwalt feels blessed to have the opportunity to work at ALIS and appreciates all the love and support she has received over the years.

“I’ve taught all these years, and if you look at my hair, the gray tells it all. But it’s been 40 years of blessings,” she said.