Wrye’s education career rocked her world and blew her hair back

Deb Wrye’s sense of humor is evident in the picture she sent to the newspaper for her retirement story. She said it sums up the educational career that spans parts of five decades.

“The picture kind of says it all,” she said. “Teaching rocked my world and blew my hair back!”

Wrye said she thought about being a teacher all the way back when she was a second-grade student because the teacher was the one who was allowed to write on the blackboard.

Those thoughts, however, really started to take root in her life while in middle school and she continued to follow that dream all the way to Indiana State University.

“I went to Indiana State during the Larry Bird years and his Celtics salary helped boost the average salary for us education majors that year,” she said.

After college, Wrye said her husband Ric’s job kept them moving around quite a bit and she didn’t get her own classroom until 1989 in Sumpter, South Carolina.

“St. Jude’s was a mission school established to offer quality alternatives to the segregated schools in that area,” she said. “It was a short, but impactful time where I learned so much about the African-American culture. I learned some fundamentals as well as crisis management when our school was severely damaged by Hurricane Hugo.”

Wrye said another move took her to Naperville, Illinois, where she worked at Archbishop Romero School in Aurora.

“Romero was an urban school that offered alternatives to the challenges and violence of the local neighborhood schools,” she said. “I so loved my time at Romero and am proud to say I was the first in my suburban neighborhood of Naperville to know how to do the Macarena thanks to my students! I learned so much about the Latino culture there.”

After her time in Illinois, Wrye landed in Salem and spent the rest of her time as an educator working at Salem Community Schools.

Over the years she has taught high school classes of U.S. history, U.S. government, economics, psychology, theology, sociology, geography and geography and history of the world. At the middle school level she taught religion, U.S. history and geography.

“When I was younger I thought U.S. history was the most interesting,” she said, “but I soon discovered I truly loved geography. Geography impacts everything--not only the physical geography of where places are and what the climates and landforms are like, but the human geography as well--how those physical elements influence culture, beliefs, and often conflicts. One cannot truly study geography without history, which makes it the best of both!

“I also liked bringing geography into focus by challenging students to see the advantages Americans have compared to so many others in the world and how world events affect us as Americans.”

Over the years, Wrye said education and the way students are taught has changed, but at the end of the day, students are the same. She said the only difference is the things they are exposed to and how early in life that exposure happens.

“I laughed when cleaning out my room when I found my final exam project for my educational technology class in college,” she said. “It was making a mimeograph (ditto) in three colors! We also learned how to thread the projectors and film strip viewers! There are just too many things to mention about how education has evolved. Students are not, by and large, different than they ever were; however, they are exposed to so much more material than they once were. Some good, lots not so good -- and certainly before maturity levels are prepared to handle such material. Kids have always wanted to learn--and as people evolve, so we must continue to evolve as educators.”

One of Wrye’s passions at Salem Middle School was her involvement with the National History Day contest. She still plans to be involved with that by judging on the state and national level.

She said when August rolls around and the new school year starts, there will be things she missses.

“I will miss the students and the energy they bring to subjects,” Wrye said. “I will miss the camaraderie of the staff and the continuous learning about best practices of education.”

While she will miss certain aspects, she is also looking forward to not being tied to the school calendar.

“We have children and grandchildren in Nashville, Tennessee, and hope to see them more,” she said.

In addition to the travel and her work with the National History Day, Wrye said she plans to keep tabs on Salem Community Schools. She said it’s a great place and she knows there are plenty more great things in the furture.

“I am grateful for the time I have spent in Salem schools and I look forward to reading about all the successes that they will have in the years to come,” she said.

Look for more stories on teachers who retired at the end of the 2020-21 school year in upcoming issues of The Salem Leader and The Salem Democrat.


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