Sturgeon returns to Jeff West school he attended
by Clarke Davis
Giving fourth-grade pupils leadership responsibilities was something new implemented when classes resumed at the Jefferson West Elementary School last week.
Wes Sturgeon, the new building principal, said the fourth-graders, the oldest students in the building, were asked to help the younger children with various things and it had made things run smoothly the first couple of days.
Receiving most of this help were the kindergarten pupils in the lunchroom and boarding buses.
“We have had no spilled trays,” he said.
After school the kindergarteners were given the number of the bus they were to board and the fourth-graders banded them together to help them board.
“One student gathered all of the children who were to board bus No. 6, for instance, and took them out and saw that they got on board,” he said.
This along with some new technologies being introduced in the classrooms is about all that is new this year.
“I’m going to be a follower,” the new principal said. “This is a good school with an experienced staff who knows best how things work here. I’m going to watch and just help out.”
Sturgeon, 44, has taught a seventh-grade reading and writing class the last five years in Jefferson West and was hired to be the principal this spring when Pat Happer moved from the elementary building to being superintendent.
Meriden is the principal’s hometown where his ancestral roots run deep and he now heads the school he himself went to. But it is also unique that his parents, Curtis and the late Sandy Sturgeon, also walked the same hallways and sat in some of the same classrooms.
Sturgeon’s great-grandfather, Burt West, graduated from a county school in Meriden in the late 1800s and his grandfather, “Bud” West, was a late 1930s graduate of a Meriden school.
The elementary building has had four or five additions added to the first building built in 1939, but the principal enjoyed greeting the children and telling one section of third-graders that he had attended third grade in the same room they were in.
Sturgeon graduated from Jefferson West in 1985 and later started a business in Meriden with a friend, the late Troy Rogers, called the Hole-in-the-Wall T-shirt Shop. It was located in a former bank building and got its name after the night deposit vault was removed and left a hole in the wall.
After completing a degree in education from Washburn University he taught third grade in the Seaman District and then spent eight years teaching fifth grade at Windsor, Colo.
During his years in Colorado he made return visits home where he held public showings of his front-engine dragster.
“I always put my two passions together — teaching and autos,” he said. His class was titled, “Race to Read.”
He returned to Jefferson West in 2005 and taught fifth-grade at Ozawkie one year before moving to the middle school. There he had an English class disguised as a hot rod class.
“Students will read what they are interested in,” he said.
This class researched every aspect of the automobile industry and it required students to read and write and do public speaking. The class culminated each spring with a hot rod show.
Has the move to principal caused the loss of a good teacher?
“I had one parent tell me she was happy for me, but also mad at me,” he said.
During the time he was in the middle school he completed a master’s in administration through Washburn. He said the district reimbursed him for most of the tuition which made it affordable.
Sturgeon now heads a building with 303 pupils in kindergarten through fourth grade. There are three sections of each class except the third-graders who have four sections. There are about 35 on the staff with about 20 of them certified teachers.
Some Keystone Learning Center classes and Head Start classes are also conducted in the building.
The Country Store, established by Principal Charles Ireland a number of years ago, still survives. Teachers hand out tokens that serve as money at the store.
While it is sort of a “carrot” to get children to do well, it provides other practical learning experiences.
“Do I spend my token for some cheap trinket or save up to get the big prize on the top shelf?” Sturgeon said the children have to ask themselves.
Sturgeon’s wife, Deborah, teaches fifth grade at North Fairview in the Seaman district. They have two children, Colton, 12, a seventh-grader, and Renae,7, a second-grader.
And he has a big garage where he stores his 1969 Chevelle and his 1967 GMC pickup. The latter is undergoing renovation.
“I have trouble with computers, but I can tear down an engine and put it back together,” he said.
It’s just a hunch, but there are some grade school children who will probably be exposed to some hot rods before long.
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