A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Student Life

Gone but never forgotten

Instructor David Clark looks at his calendar, only 7 more school days until he leaves WO for good. He sighs and goes back to preparing for his next class. Clark is one of four staff members at WO retiring. The impacts these staff members have made are tremendous and they couldn’t be thanked enough.

  One man, in particular, I have grown relatively close with is our assistant principal  Don Clavette. He has worked through every single level of education at West Ottawa, and this year will, unfortunately, be his last. Working at every level of education has provided Clavette with plenty of wonderful experiences. “There was a student who I butted heads with all year in dunes, but only because he thought he wouldn’t be successful, and no one was going to push him, and I kept pushing and pushing and pushing, and when he walked across the stage, I felt an overwhelming pride,” Clavette said. “Also, I’m a big 300lb guy, and he wasn’t very big, but he picked me up and gave me a big bear hug. Now, he comes back every year to see kids like him, graduate. He doesn’t pick me up anymore, but he is working and owns a home.”  Mr. Clavette will be missed, but the impact he has made on the students and the school will never be forgotten.

  Instructor David Clark will be joining Clavette in retirement. Clark has been teaching for 30 years, and one of his fondest memories was in his marketing class. “A few weeks ago when we started designing, we got new equipment to make t-shirts.” He talked about the details without much emotion, but when he talked about one of his students, he immediately brought on an impressed tone. “I had a student get into the design center, and she was just so excited about the different designs she could create. She’s going to be in marketing again for the third year, so she’s going to push whoever the teacher is to do a lot of marketing and creating of t-shirts,” Clark said. He slightly adjusted his face to form a grin, and he continued with “She’s very excited to get out of the store and more into some other kind of marketing.” When I asked him if he was proud, he answered swiftly, “Yeah, Yeah, she was the girl who didn’t talk much or get excited about many things. But, she went and changed her schedule again to accommodate for Marketing.” Mr. Clark seems like a great man, and I’m sure he has to be part of the reason a student has taken his class three times. He influenced her life forever. Whether it was a big influence or not, he still made an impact.

  The choir program at WO is exceptional and that is thanks to instructor Pamela Pierson. She is the choir teacher, and if kids were to get close to any teacher in high school they would say Mrs. Pierson is one of them. She has been working for the high school for 15 years, five more years than she said she would. I asked her why, and she was quick to respond, “I was having fun.” When I asked her if she could think of one student who has shared an emotional memory with her, she chuckled because it was a difficult question to answer. “There are more than I can count, and I could never single one out because of how many kids I have grown close to,” Pierson said. After that, she went off on a tangent. She no longer was looking at me in the eyes, but instead she stared just past my shoulder, and I could tell she was reminiscing. “One of the things that make me sad is that a lot of the kids who graduate come and visit me here, and I won’t be here anymore, to be visited.” It was sad; but, she said that she’s happy with her work. She remembers a time when the choir was singing a song called “Music in My Mother’s House”. “I really connected to the song because it is about kids remembering being in their mother’s house where music was a big part of life. I was taken away and overwhelmed by how beautiful they were singing,” Pierson said.  It is truly a talent for one to be able to teach kids an art that can make one come to tears, and Mrs. Pierson has that talent. She will no longer be teaching, but what she has thought and left at the school will benefit students in years to come.

Instructor Patrick Foley also is retiring this year.   Foley has been a teacher at WO for 22 years, and over the years he has gained many labels: smart, funny, easy going, understanding, etc. There’s no doubt that when he retires at the end of the year, he will be missed by his students and fellow teachers . Foley has impacted many students during his journey as a teacher. “I had him for theater caravan, but he was probably the nicest teacher I’ve ever had, like just in general… he was always upbeat and everything… just smiling happily and getting you to do things.”  Soph. Kyra Wiersma said. Foley had the ability to brighten up almost anyones day. Foley will surely be missed

  Although all of these staff members play almost opposite roles in the school, they all spoke about one topic. I asked them, “If you had to describe West Ottawa in the fewest words possible, what words would you use?” Without any priming, they all talked about West Ottawa’s diversity. Mr. Clavette helped build the Dunes program. “I wanted more of our students to be assisted since we have such a diverse school. I am glad to be a part of a school that accepts each other and is fortunate enough to have the program,” Clavette said with pride in his voice. “I think this is a fabulous school. I would never have come if my impression wasn’t that the school had a lot to offer and a lot of diverse experiences. The diverse student population presents a lot of opportunities, so it has been a wonderful time, and I appreciate it very much,” Pierson said. “I’m impressed by the diversity and how well everyone gets along. I never taught at a school this diverse in culture, and it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of animosities. I think that’s very cool that people can accept each other and go to school because not every school is like that,”  Clark said. These staff members have been part of West Ottawa for a long time, and it influenced them with its diversity, and it was lucky to be influenced by them. They are the reason West Ottawa is so diverse and accepting at the same time. They were our role models, and they were suitable for the job. They shared laughter, anger, and sadness with their students. Unfortunately, they have done their part at West Ottawa, but they influenced hundreds and maybe thousands of kids that will never forget them.   

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