Three Brownstown Central Community School Corp. minibuses, the Radio 96.3 Cool Bus and nearly 15 other vehicles recently paraded by a couple of homes.
The first stop was at Cathi Wheeler’s home right outside of Brownstown, and the other stop was at Mike Brown’s home in Seymour.
The reason for the parade? Wheeler retired after teaching for 23 years at Brownstown Central Middle School, and Brown retired after 42½ years at the same school.
Wheeler said she was totally shocked when she saw the buses coming down the road.
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“I even looked at my husband and said, ‘What are those buses doing clear out here?'” she said. “I didn’t realize it was for me until they started honking their horns. I can’t express what it meant to me that they would take time out of their schedules to show their appreciation for Mr. Brown and me. It has been such a difficult time with social distancing, and that certainly raised my spirits and allowed me to say goodbye.”
Brown was totally surprised, too.
“It left me speechless for several minutes,” he said. “The fact that my colleagues put together the parade confirmed what I always knew — that those individuals who I worked with the past 42½ are the best. I am very grateful for their efforts but not surprised. As I said, they are the best. I will never forget that day.”
When she was in middle school herself, Wheeler said she decided on her future career.
“I had such a wonderful school experience that I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” she said.
She graduated from Brownstown Central High School in 1977 and then Franklin College in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts in physical education, health and biology. She later received her master’s degree in 1996 and a master’s plus 15 hours in 2016 from Indiana University Southeast.
She started teaching sixth grade science and humanities and then taught sixth grade science, PE and sign language.
About 15 years ago, she moved to seventh grade science and settled in there for the rest of her career.
“Middle school is when a student goes through a lot of changes,” Wheeler said. “It is so rewarding to see them come in as frightened sixth-graders and see them leave as confident eighth-graders.”
Wheeler said if you ask the students, they likely would say she was one of the toughest and strictest teachers at the middle school.
“I would tell them I just had high expectations for them, and by the end of the year, most of the students could attain those expectations,” she said.
One thing she implemented in her classroom was Feel Good Friday. Students would draw a number, and she would put the class roster on the board. Whose ever that number was, they had to write them a compliment.
“I would collect them and pass them out by numbers so they wouldn’t know who it came from,” she said. “We collected them all year, and they were going to type them up and I was going to laminate them so they could keep them and reflect back on them after the year was over.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic caused school to close from mid-March to the first part of May, she didn’t get to follow through with the project, but she still feels it made an impact.
“I went into teaching thinking I was going to change the kids’ lives but concluded my career realizing how much they changed my life,” she said.
Wheeler also has fond memories of her fellow staff members.
“My colleagues were my second family,” she said. “They were there whenever I needed them, and I hope I was there when they needed me.”
Now retired, Wheeler said she’s going to miss the relationships with the students and her colleagues.
“Teaching has changed remarkably since I started my career,” she said. “There are so many requirements now you have to meet that there isn’t time to do some of the special things with the kids. Sometimes, a student might just need to talk about something, and you have the pressure of teaching a certain concept that day.”
In retirement, she plans to spend more time with her family.
“I have an 18-month-old grandson and a granddaughter due in September, so I don’t think I will get bored,” Wheeler said. “I’m hoping I will find some way to give back to the community that has been so good to me.”
While attending Seymour High School in the early 1970s, Brown was drawn to become a teacher.
“Like many kids in school, I liked some teachers more than others, but I always had respect for my teachers,” he said. “The teacher that finally solidified my choice was my biology and advanced biology teacher at Seymour High School, Gordon Reynolds. He was a very good teacher and great role model.”
After graduating in 1973, Brown, known to most by the nickname “Chatty,” went to Indiana University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in education with a major in biology and a minor in general science in 1978. He later earned his Master of Science in secondary education from IU.
Brown said he had intentions of teaching at the high school level, so he student taught sophomore biology at Columbus East High School.
After he graduated, though, he interviewed at BCMS for a seventh and eighth grade science teaching position.
“I had been told by some that I would not like teaching at the middle school level. I soon realized that this was not the case,” he said. “Some things I realized about middle school students and that I enjoyed were that many tried to please you, many liked to share funny stories and many told you like it was.”
He taught eighth grade science throughout his career. He also taught seventh grade science when science was a one-semester course.
“Every teacher realizes that they will have some impact on their students,” Brown said. “I personally wanted my students to accept the importance of doing their best, not someone else’s best. I wanted to instill that effort, honesty and fairness are traits that I embrace and that it was my goal that they embrace these, too.”
Like Wheeler, Brown said he enjoyed working with his colleagues.
“When I first came to BCMS, I was welcomed with open arms,” he said. “Over the years, my colleagues have been true professionals. They were always ready to help when I had questions or issues concerning school matters. Many of those who I have worked with have become very good lifelong friends.”
Reflecting on his career, Brown said the time went by fast.
“By no means does it seem like I have spent 42½ years here,” he said. “I am sure I will miss school when it begins next year. Since I began kindergarten in 1960, I have been in school in some manner for nearly 60 consecutive years. Hard not to miss that.”
Not being around the students and staff will be different.
“Like all teachers, I will certainly miss the many unique students who I have crossed paths with the past decades,” Brown said. “I will certainly miss the many co-workers that I have had the pleasure to know.”
Along with teaching, Brown was a member of the Brownstown Central Classroom Teachers Association and served on the negotiations team and was a building representative. He also coached middle school football, basketball and track and field and junior varsity and freshman baseball. He said he coached at least one sport every year.
Brown said his retirement plans are pretty simple.
“I have plenty of things around the house that need attention,” he said. “When things settle down, my wife and I plan to spend more time with our children and grandchildren. We also hope to do some travel to different areas of the U.S.”
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Name: Mike “Chatty” Brown
Hometown: Born in Washington and grew up in Seymour
Education: Seymour High School (1973); Indiana University (Bachelor of Science in education with a major in biology and a minor in general science, 1978; Master of Science in secondary education)
Occupation: Recently retired after 42½ years of teaching science at Brownstown Central Middle School
Family: Wife, Terri Brown (married 41 years); four children, Shawn (Tiffany) Brown, Trent (Kimberly) Brown, Derek Brown and Lauren Brown; six grandchildren, Logan, Bayon, Maddox, Tinley, Joelin and Caius
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Name: Cathi Wheeler
Education: Brownstown Central High School (1977); Franklin College (Bachelor of Arts in physical education, health and biology, 1981); Indiana University Southeast (master’s degree in education, 1996; master’s plus 15 hours, 2016)
Occupation: Recently retired after 23 years of teaching science at Brownstown Central Middle School
Family: Husband, Steve Wheeler; daughter, Chelsea (Mark) Schmidt; grandson, Hayes; granddaughter due in September