Perry-Lecompton senior class pays tribute to teacher with new sign
by Carolyn Kaberline
Perry-Lecompton Middle School now has a sign of its own thanks to a former teacher, the class of 2011, high school construction classes and too many others to list. The sign, which sits at the northwest corner of the school, stands in testimony to the impact made by Stephanie Culver, USD 343 teacher for 25 years.
Culver spent her entire teaching career in USD 343 schools, beginning with third- and fourth-graders at Grantville Grade School in 1984, moving to the middle school in 1989 to teach sixth-graders, and finally teaching science to the upper grades beginning in 1993 until her retirement at the end of the 2008-2009 school year.
“We were impacted enough by her to still feel the love she gave off the day she passed,” said Taylor Easum, PLHS Student Body executive president. Easum noted that it was only five years ago that the class of 2011 sat in her science classroom where they “learned, questioned, disputed, studied and fulfilled their role of students.” It was there, Easum said, that they listened and soaked in the knowledge and harsh kindness “of a teacher who really cared.”
After Culver succumbed to cancer in August of 2010, the senior class decided to do something to commemorate her years of teaching.
“Most of us felt Mrs. Culver was one of the best teachers we ever had,” Easum said. “Everyone in the high school took a really big hit when she passed and felt it was necessary to do something for her.”
“Last year, as juniors, we spent the whole year planning for prom,” Hayley Miller, senior class president said. “Because of the terrible economy and the tight budgets everyone had, a lot of the parents were worried that raising enough money to rent out a place for prom would be nearly impossible. Nobody wanted to have prom at the high school, so we all went out and raised as much money as we could.”
Miller said they were so successful that after paying rental to Abe and Jakes in Lawrence, buying decorations, and paying the disc jockey and photographer, they had “quite a bit of money left over.”
“With all the money we had left over, we had to find a way to spend it –or at least put it to good use—before our senior year was up,” Miller explained, noting that the class debated on a possible senior trip or class shirts for everyone.
“We had yet to make a decision when Mrs. Culver died,” Miller said. “After that tragedy, we knew we wanted to do something for her instead of using the money on ourselves.”
Easum said that one of the first ideas the class came up with was a new grandstand for the football field with the goal of dedicating it to the Culver family.
“When we took the idea to Mr. Culver, he said it was a good idea, but his wife had always wanted a sign for the middle school, so we thought it would be nice to do something she wanted,” Easum explained.
“Ever since they built the middle school onto the high school, she complained that there was no sign saying ‘Perry-Lecompton Middle School’ but instead only one for the high school,” Miller explained.
Middle school principal Josh Woodward said a separate sign for the middle school was something that Stephanie Culver really wanted. He even remembered that the lack of a sign caused her to put up a PLMS sign in her classroom windows and even light it up at night. “This was something that was important to Steph,” he said.
“We told the industrial tech class that helped make the sign that we would be more than happy to donate however much was needed to make the sign,” Miller added.
Before long the project began.
“We met on October 10,” Pat Winchester, industrial arts teacher, said. “Stone cutter Keith Middlemas, Bill Culver, and I got together and came up with a vision of the sign. The senior class paid for the lower portion of it.”
“Bill came to me after Stephanie’s death and said that he was interested in purchasing and erecting a PLMS sign through Steph’s memorial funds, plus funds donated by the PLHS senior class,” Denis Yoder, USD 343 Superintendent, said. “Bill and Stephanie had wanted a sign since moving into the new building, but because of budget issues, it had not been done. The small metal signs had been purchased for the short term, until funds were available to erect a larger more permanent sign. The board approved the donation of the middle school sign at the October 11, 2010, board meeting.”
“The class of 2011 put forth almost $1,500 to accomplish something to commemorate a special mentor,” Easum noted, adding that the sign was made in a little over three weeks after all the initial planning took place.
Although the senior class donated the money for the base, many others helped make the sign a reality: the City of Perry did the actual excavation, Winchester’s eighth grade intro class helped scrape out the extra dirt, the third hour Residential Carpentry class built the forms and did the initial pour of three yards of concrete, and the sixth hour commercial construction class set and removed the forms, tied the rebar, and backfilled the hole.
In addition, David Yoder of Oskaloosa (no relation to USD 343 superintendent Denis Yoder) laid the brick; Midwest Concrete, formerly Lawrence Ready Mix, provided the concrete at cost with no delivery fee; and Schmidt Building Supply provided the framing materials. The bricks and mortar came from Capitol City Concrete Products while Charlie Bowen provided the equipment to move the completed sign into place.
Although a more formal dedication is planned for the second semester, the completed sign has a small plaque dedicating the sign to the memory of Stephanie Culver. It also includes lines from one of her favorite poems:
“Care more than others think is wise,
Risk more than others think is safe,
Dream more than others think is practical,
Expect more than others think is possible.”
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