Glerum Elementary: Recently deceased school resurrects alumni memories

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One of the gym walls at Glerum

Cole Hook and Jack Kleinjans

Cornelia S. Glerum Elementary. Once a haven of creativity, energy, and youth. Now a concrete graveyard of the memories of children that have passed through the property line in hopes for an education. As one of several West Ottawa elementary schools, Glerum was producing a smaller and smaller contribution to the middle school melting pot at Macatawa Bay. This shrinkage was caused by the limited classroom space that the building had. The two hallways were stuffed to the brim with classrooms and lockers, but filled with even more love from teachers. Being an alumni from the school, we have experienced this love, passion, and energy first hand. The teachers at Glerum were some of the greatest educators we have had the pleasure of being taught by. All of us alumni, students, and teachers are sad to see Glerum go, but celebrate the life it brought to our community.   

  Alumni of Glerum consistently praise one thing about Glerum: the teachers. With no intention of degrading instructors at other schools, Glerum had the best teachers of any school in West Ottawa. Seniors Elizabeth Ly and Angel Hernandez are two Glerum Alumni that expressed remembrance specifically of the faculty at Glerum. “Looking back at it now, I can still name all the teachers I had throughout the years off the top of my head…” said Ly. Not only did it help that there were only two teachers for each grade at Glerum, but the teachers also were “… really nice and laid back. The teachers are the thing that I miss about Glerum the most,” said Hernandez. Junior Addam Jongekryg also attended Glerum. One teacher in particular made a big impact on him. Ms. Bilczewski is known by her students as being one of the most fun, energetic, and compassionate teachers at Glerum. Teaching third grade, Bilczewski started a March Madness competition that many of her students participated in. This is only one example of why Jongekryg says she was “the coolest teacher there.”

  One population affected by Glerum’s destruction was the current students enrolled in the building just last year. Second grader Malachi Manning, brother to Glerum Alumni and Senior Chasten Griep, attended his early education career at Glerum, and was one of the final students to be taught at the school. Transferring to a different school might have not been the worst decision, in fact, it could be beneficial for Malachi’s future. “I liked Glerum. It had lots of nice teachers, and I made lots of friends,” said Manning. “(However), I like my new school better. It’s newer and has more people. I miss my friends, but the school is cooler,” said Manning.

  As previously stated, teachers really made Glerum the great place it was. Instructor Lisa Snyder taught for more than a decade at Glerum before it was demolished. Snyder still teaches fourth grade, but at Pine Creek.  “I’ll admit, I was really nervous to come to my new school,” said Snyder.  “Glerum had been my home … and even packing up all my stuff was pretty difficult. But now that I’m here, I can say I absolutely love it. Pine Creek is much newer than Glerum, so everything is in much better repair,” said Snyder. Like others, Snyder does miss the atmosphere of her old school, though. “ I’ll miss the families most.  It was so fun to see returning students when their little sisters and brothers came to 4th grade.  Like many have said before me, Glerum was certainly a place where students, families, and staff all felt united toward a common goal,” Snyder said. The unity formed within Glerum will live on in the students, alumni, and instructors.

  Alumni and faculty alike are sentimental towards the school deemed “out of commision”, but understand the reasoning behind it. “I will sorely miss seeing the parents and students that come back to visit, but the school itself was aging and in disrepair.  I didn’t realize how inequitable the facility was until I changed schools” said Snyder. After all, the building was very old, containing faulty lighting, shady classrooms, and musty carpet. However run-down the building was, most students still wish it was still standing. Some felt as if they just “destroyed it out of nowhere,” says Hernandez. “In the end though, it was up to the district, not the students,” says Hernandez. If it were up to the students, many would have chosen to make the necessary repairs to keep the building alive and well, just like it was in their elementary days.

  The bonds formed within the walls of Glerum are unique. These bonds are created in the presence of crowded classrooms and peeling paint, rusty and out-of-date playground equipment, and lockers that were falling apart at the hinges. In a “music room” where the keyboards didn’t work and the piano was out of tune, and a gym that contained one complete basketball hoop and scuff marks from shoes that were more visible than the painted basketball lines. “ I can just glance at someone and know whether or not they’re a fellow Glerum alumni. I still feel this odd sense of comfort around (them) because I don’t think I can ever truly be just a stranger to any of them,” said Ly. “Glerum was a pretty small school with only two teachers per grade and even if you weren’t in the same class as your friends it didn’t matter. In high school there’s just so many kids and staff members that it’s hard to meet and get to know everyone,” said Ly. The education at Glerum not only prepared students for a future of West Ottawa education, but for a successful future in life.

 

R.I.P. Cornelia S. Glerum Elementary

1954-2015