Archive for Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Dedication to education

April 23, 2003

Bill Neuenswander has given his life to education and now, in return, he's receiving the state's top honor for his years of dedication.

Neuenswander, along with six other Kansas teachers, will be inducted into the Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame in Dodge City on June 7.

"Bill is always held in very high regard," Tom Mundinger, Baldwin Elementary School principal, said. "He's considered one of the leaders of education in the state."

Mundinger was the one who recommended the Baldwin School District nominate Neuenswander for the prestigious honor.

"He truly lives out the definition of a life-long learner," he said.

"He's given his whole life and career to Kansas education. He truly deserves to be there," he said. "He clearly is somebody of the caliber you would think of as a Kansas Hall of Fame educator."

Neuenswander, 66, said his 45-year career in education came "quite by accident."

With dreams of becoming an engineer, he said he had several opportunities to go into education. But it wasn't until some time later, and after several offers, that he finally decided to pursue education.

"I'm pleased I didn't," he said of his decision not to become an engineer. "It's not a people business and education is. It's a business you can make a difference in people's lives and, hopefully, I've been able to do that a few times.

"In my opinion, I think education is the most noble profession," he said. "It's a place where you can connect with young adults."

Neuenswander began his career in 1958 in Westphalia teaching first through eighth grades at Maple Grove Elementary. From 1959 to 1963 he taught the seventh and eighth grades at Greeley Elementary. He moved up to high school where he was a math and science teacher and a coach in Kincaid and then Langdon until 1968.

After receiving his master's degree in math and education administration from Kansas State University in 1968, Neuenswander became the high school principal at Cheney.

Two years later, he moved up in the ranks and became Cheney's superintendent of schools.

From 1980 to 1988, he was the Baldwin School District's superintendent. He also served as an adjunct professor of education at Baker University for a year in 1986.

Neuenswander left Baldwin to become the superintendent of schools in Abilene, serving a one-year stint as an adjunct professor at K-State for a year, before returning to Baker in 1995 where he is currently a professor and director of teacher education.

"The opportunity to move to a college campus was just one more pleasing thing," he said.

But his favorite experiences, he said, have been in the classrooms.

"Classrooms are where the action is," he said.

Neuenswander's own education didn't stop once he started teaching. After receiving a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Emporia State University and a master's degree, he received a specialist's degree in education administration from Wichita State University followed by an education doctorate in education administration from Kansas University.

He said he has never regretted his decision to become an educator.

"I was fortunate enough to get connected with education and I can't think of any place I'd rather invest my time," he said. "I think my calling was public education. You have to deal with everybody in town that knocks on the door. You can't pick and choose and that's a challenge."

Working with the students, he said, is what made his job worthwhile.

"I've learned as much from the kids over the years as they did from me."

He said the many people he worked with played a part in his success as an educator.

"Many of my heroes are in education," he said. "If only they knew they helped me a lot more than I helped them."

But Mundinger said it's just the opposite.

"The five years I spent working with him, he probably had the greatest single impact on me as an educator," he said. "The five years I spent with him were a real period of growth for me personally."

He said Neuenswander has that effect on most of the people he works with.

"That's one thing about Bill that sets him apart," Mundinger said. "Everybody that works with him grows. If you work with Bill, you're going to grow."

Neuenswander is rather modest when it comes to talking about his Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame honor.

"This nomination is not about Bill Neuenswander," he said. "This nomination is about someone that hopefully impacted kids' lives.

"I don't even claim to be one of the better teachers," he said. "But hopefully I can represent good education."

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