Retired teacher- Ms. Simke

“I love that place where skills in science, math, and art intersect.” – Ms. Simke

Retired teacher- Ms. Simke

Daniel, Reporter

One year ago Ms. Simke retired from our school. “I had decided to retire at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, because I had been teaching since 1980 and my husband and I wanted to spend some time traveling.” This was three months before the start of lockdown in America, so traveling abroad was still an option.

“I started working at NSA in 2012, when I heard they needed a new science teacher,” said Ms. Simke,  “-this was an exciting opportunity for me, as I had heard what a great school NSA was!” She was hired to teach 6th grade science, and one section of math.

After a couple of years Ms. Simke got a new assignment, “I switched to teaching social studies for my homeroom.  This was a fairly scary proposition for me, as I was (ahem) not the best history student in school.  I was surprised, though, to find out that ancient history is actually fascinating, and I got a lot of help and support from my colleagues as I was learning how to teach it.”

One of her most special memories at North Star came during her first month of her teaching.  She received a welcome banner from a group of students. “Some students brought me a large banner which had friendly greetings of welcome from many NSA students.  This is a very special memory, as it made me feel like part of a friendly community right away.  I still have that banner!”

Other favorite memories include times when her students were building things and discovering how to put their knowledge into action.  “Favorite memories include certain labs, such as the color lab, and building activities, the bridge competition, newspaper towers, and who could forget solar cookers?” Ms. Simke said, “If I could start my own school it would include engineering and construction activities as the basis for most learning.”

One of the hardest parts of teaching for Ms. Simke was convincing students and parents that the most important thing is the LEARNING, not the grades. “When students are purposefully occupied and willing to devote themselves to enjoying their teachers’ carefully-crafted lessons, the learning comes more easily and good grades naturally follow,” she says. Maybe after this article you will be convinced… “Students who cram the night before a test because they never looked at the material before, or who do their homework quickly just to get it done, are cheating themselves out of truly meaningful time spent in daily study, and their grades show it.” They feel upset because they worked very hard the night before the test.  For Ms. Simke this was the hardest thing to witness as a teacher.

Ms. Simke’s favorite enrichments that she taught were Paper Engineering, Things That Fly, Bridges and Towers, and The Zen of Drawing. “I got a lot of pleasure helping students understand how to build a higher tower, or how to make a pop-up card, or how to construct an incredibly strong model bridge.  The enrichment classes are the thing I miss most.”

Today Ms. Simke is of course not traveling even though she had made plans to,  because of Covid-19. “Obviously, we are NOT traveling farther than the grocery store these days, and we are patiently waiting for our turn to get the COVID vaccine.  We have been doing a lot of fix-it projects at home, and I have been spending a lot of time in the garden. I learned how to sew triple-layer face masks that I give to friends and family, and I signed up for an online architectural watercolor class. My closets have never been so clean and organized, so I guess there are many benefits to sheltering in place.” 

We miss Ms. Simke,  and wish her best in the pandemic. Thank you for teaching us!