Brownstown Central High School math teacher retires after 41 years


Rex Kovert’s introduction to education came during the blizzard of 1978.

School was closed for two and a half weeks, and then he was able to start student teaching at Jennings County High School.

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On the first day, Kovert worked under a math teacher who also was the football coach. He was one of three Ball State University students doing their student teaching at Jennings County.

“I remember seeing him teach algebra class first period, and he comes back to me at the beginning of second period, he said, ‘Now, watch how I do this. You can teach my fifth period class today,’ and I’m like, ‘What?’” Kovert said.

He had taught some sample classes at Ball State, but he didn’t expect to jump right into it while student teaching.

“I was a nervous wreck,” Kovert said. “I taught that last period class, and at the end of that, he goes, ‘Well, you did a good job. I think you’ve got it.’”

On his second day, Kovert taught all of the classes.

“Some of those people that were my age, they had been there three weeks and never got to teach yet,” he said of the other student teachers. “I go, ‘Man, I’ve been teaching.’”

After graduating from Ball State in 1978, Kovert landed a job teaching in Brownstown. At the end of this school year, he retired after 41 years in the classroom.

Since 1980, he has farmed along with being a teacher. This past year, with his son, Kory, becoming busier with school to become a veterinarian, he wasn’t able to help on the farm as he did in the past. Rex decided it was time to retire from teaching.

“When my boy is gone as much as he was, it was rough this year,” he said. “Since about Christmas, I’ve really been tossing this around. It has been very, very enjoyable. It’s hard to quit, but it is what it is.”

Kovert grew up on a farm in Crothersville and graduated from Crothersville High School in 1974. He then went to Ball State and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in physical education.

His sophomore year at Ball State, a faculty member asked why he was minoring in PE. He said it was because he wanted to coach, and he figured he would teach math most of the day and end with a PE class.

“That lady looks at me and goes, ‘Son, if you’re a math major, you’ll never teach a day of PE in your life,’” Kovert said. “And 41 years later, she was right. I’ve never taught a PE class. But it was helpful to take your physiology and kinesiology and things like that for coaching if a kid gets hurt.”

A math teacher from high school, Tom Stuckwisch, helped Kovert decide his career path.

“He worked on me my whole senior year, kept telling me I needed to be a math teacher,” Kovert said. “I was going to go to school and get a business degree and go home and build houses, and he told me, he said, ‘Rex, you need to be a math teacher.’ I remember it was in the spring, I don’t know how many weeks of school left, and I came in and I said, ‘I think I want to do that.’”

By the time Kovert graduated from college, Stuckwisch had moved to Paoli, where he was a math teacher and the baseball head coach. He wanted Kovert to come teach there, but he had an interview in Brownstown and wound up taking a job at the middle school.

“I always thought Brownstown was the perfect size school,” Kovert said. “You still have your football and all of your sports, you have good facilities and everything, but yet all of the kids know each other. There was about 150 in a class, and I never did want to teach at a great big place. Here, you know everybody.”

During his first year of teaching math at Brownstown Central Middle School, he received a job offer from Jennings County. Having good students in class, though, helped him decide Brownstown was the place to be.

“Your first group is kind of special,” he said. “I just decided to stay here and have been here ever since.”

He was at the middle school from 1978 to 2003. The first year, he coached middle school football and track and field and freshman basketball. Then in 1979, he became the cross country head coach at the high school. He left that position after winning a sectional title but stayed with track and field and was able to coach his middle daughter, Kassie, and his son.

“It’s just something really special because you’re out of the classroom and you can really teach those kids a lot coaching, more than what people think,” Kovert said.

In 2003, there was an opening for a math teacher at the high school. After turning down offers twice, he finally agreed to take it.

Kovert said he did his best to make the classroom a fun environment.

“To be an effective teacher nowadays, I think you have to make it entertaining,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m going to dance or anything like that. I do think you have to make it entertaining when you teach, especially when you’re teaching math. The kids have got to enjoy your class. They’ve got to want to come to class.”

Every day, he made it a point to walk up and down the rows of desks in his classroom.

“If I just stand up here in front and teach and never go through there and interact with them, there will be some kids that won’t ever really know you,” Kovert said. “When I go up and down that row, you’re by them all of the time and you talk to them on a daily basis and you make jokes. … It makes them more at ease with you. I think the kids have got to be at ease with the teacher.”

Teaching at the high school has been special for Kovert with his wife, Peggy, teaching PE and health next door. She came to the high school a year before he did.

Then three years ago, that portion of the high school became known as Kovert’s Corner when their oldest daughter, Kallie, became a math teacher there after moving from the middle school.

“We didn’t plan these rooms out. It just worked out that way,” he said. “It’s really no different because when we’re out at the farm, we’re working together all of the time anyway.”

Now that Rex has retired, Kallie will be taking over for him. Peggy is remaining as a teacher, too.

The decision to retire, however, was not an easy one.

“I always thought when you retired, that would be the happiest day of your life, but it really wasn’t because I really wanted to keep going,” Rex said.

He wanted to teach for at least two more years, but there is a lot of work to do on the farm, including handling corn, soybeans and hay and running a registered Angus herd.

“When we’re doing embryos and all of this work and messing with cows on a daily basis, we get up at 5 and we quit at dark, and 14 or 15 hours a day, I can’t handle it anymore. I’m just tired all of the time,” he said.

Farming always has been enjoyable during the summer break from teaching, Rex said. But now, that will be his only job.

“When we sell these calves, we have to halter break them. It’s a daily grind, and I’ll still be busy. I’m not worried about that,” he said. “When I’m here (at school), as soon as I walk out that door, I just feel like I’m so far behind. … It’s very expensive, so I really needed to stay here, but I just can’t do it anymore.”

Kovert will be 63 this summer and said he thought he could keep doing both jobs for a couple more years, but he decided now is the right time to retire.

“It just came to a point to where I’m not really retiring. I’m eliminating one job,” he said, smiling.

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Name: Rex Kovert

Age: 62

Hometown: Crothersville

Residence: Crothersville

Education: Crothersville High School (1974); Ball State University (bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a physical education minor, 1978); Indiana University (master’s degree in education, 1980)

Occupation: Recently retired after teaching for 41 years with Brownstown Central Community School Corp.

Family: Wife, Peggy Kovert; daughters, Kallie (Dustin) Roller and Kassie (Matt) Michel; son, Kory Kovert; grandsons, Allen Roller, Alex Roller and Henry Michel