Stephanie Eby was her own first student.
As a middle-schooler with advanced math skills, Eby and a few classmates were allowed to progress through the math curriculum at their own pace.
“We worked on our own in the back of the classroom for sixth, seventh and eighth grades. You taught yourself, and we told (the teacher) when we were ready to test at the end of the unit. I got really good at teaching myself, breaking things down and learning little tricks,” Eby said.
In high school, she discovered her life's calling.
“A lot of people were struggling, and I ended up helping other kids in the classroom,” Eby said.
She also was inspired by Sue Loy of Saline, a now-retired Summerfield Schools teacher.
“She was a fantastic math teacher,” Eby said. “All these kids who were struggling were totally understanding. She had ways of explaining and breaking things down. I said, ‘I would love to do that.’ In sophomore year, I knew I wanted to be a math teacher. I never veered.”
Eby, a Jefferson High School math teacher, is retiring this school year after more than 25 years in the classroom. She’s also been the head of the school's math department, a class adviser and an 11-year volleyball coach.
Her career began when she was barely out of Hillsdale College. She also has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Toledo.
“I graduated from Hillsdale College in the spring. Steve Scharf, Jefferson High School principal, called me. He said he had a position open here, teaching math for the last few weeks of school. I (later) interviewed for a (permanent job) and got it. It was awesome. I knew I had to be here,” she said.
She stayed at the school her entire career.
“I think it’s the perfect-sized school, not too small, not too big. We get to know most of the kids,” Eby said. “I really love the kids, the community, the families, all the people I work with. I felt like I have a really good thing here. I had no interest in leaving.”
In 25 years, Eby has taught every math subject, from Algebra 1 to Advanced Placement calculus.
“I love teaching Algebra 1 and geometry to younger students. Some have had some of the content in middle school, but it just didn’t click. You can just see the lightbulb come on. That’s so incredibly rewarding to be a part of that,” she said.
When she left coaching 14 years ago, AP calculus became her new “sport.”
“Another person retired. I was able to step into that. That kind of became my coaching. You got to know the kids beyond the math part. We stayed after school, had field trips; we held night sessions (for the AP test). I got parents involved; we set up food. Students I had in the past few years, who were using calculus, came back. That is so rewarding, to watch them explain things and work in small groups with the kids. That was definitely a highlight," Eby said.
Another career highlight was school activities, like dress-up days.
“I’m the crazy dress-up person,” Eby said. “Freshmen think I’m so professional; (they are surprised) when I totally dress up as the old lady or a child."
Despite today’s challenges in the classroom, including the distraction of cellphones and the lingering learning lags caused by COVID-19, Eby enjoys working with high school students.
“Teens can be a challenge. They are figuring things out, and they can have attitudes. But, teaching in high school, that’s where I was supposed to be. I love the subject, and I love the environment of a high school," she said. "You’re helping to mold them and teach them, not only the subject, but study skills, life skills and getting ready for college, trade, school, the military. My students go on to be successful. I just got a nice email (from a college) about a young man going into cybersecurity. The man wrote an essay about me and about how much I care about my students. I don’t think there's anything more rewarding than that."
“Stephanie has been more than just a teacher to her students. She is a mentor, a mom and a lifelong friend. She has a special connection to her kids that goes far beyond her classroom walls,” Eby’s colleague Carrie Grube said. “My own children have had her as a teacher and loved her dearly. Our kids at Jefferson have been blessed to have such an amazing teacher in their lives.”
While Eby hopes to continuing working in education part-time, she said now is the right time to leave her full-time position. She wants to spend more time with her aging family members and her own children. She and her husband, John, are the parents of Olivia, an eighth grader, and Elise, a fourth grader.
“I love teaching. I’m not leaving and retiring because I’m burned out. I just need more time in the day. My grandparents and parents (Jack Boll and Connie Boll) are not in great health, and there are my kids’ activities. I don’t want to miss out on my girls while I’m taking care of everyone else’s kids. I need a few days a week to take care of my family. This is a gift that I’m able to do this,” Eby said.
She’s thankful to Jefferson Schools for a long and memorable career.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity that Jefferson has given me," she said. "It’s hard to leave all these wonderful people: The school board, the kids, the parents, the custodians, the cafeteria workers. I’ve developed all these wonderful relationships with all these people. I've never been bored. Kids always have something going on. I’m going to miss that."
This article originally appeared on The Monroe News: Stephanie Eby retiring from Jefferson High School