Brownstown Elementary teacher reflects on 30-year career

BROWNSTOWN — Sharon Pottschmidt has had a longtime connection to Brownstown Elementary School.

The Vallonia native was a student there and even had the opportunity to have her cousin, Becky Baker (who was Becky Terkhorn at the time), as her third grade teacher.

When she was a student at Brownstown Central High School and decided she wanted to become a teacher, she was a cadet teacher in Baker’s class.

Then her first year out of Purdue University, she was an aide in Baker’s classroom.

The following school year, the school expanded to five classrooms in each grade, and Pottschmidt was offered one of the third grade positions. That resulted in her being a colleague of her cousin.

She remained in third grade for three years before spending the next 27 years in second grade.

On Brownstown Central Community School Corp.’s recent last day of school, Pottschmidt was emotional because it signaled the end of her 30-year career and the beginning of her retirement.

“Once a Brave, always a Brave,” the 52-year-old said. “It has been very special to be able to think this was my building, this is where I was. Who would have thought I would come back and teach here for this long? It is a neat connection to have.”

Pottschmidt’s experience of having Baker as her teacher in third grade led to her choosing that profession.

“I loved Becky, and my grandmother was a teacher,” she said. “I played school all the time. There wasn’t anything else for me. It was teaching.”

After graduating from BCHS in 1987, Pottschmidt went to Purdue and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1991.

“As far as the younger grades, like second and third grade, they still love you, they want the hugs,” she said, smiling. “I tell them from when they walk in my classroom, I say, ‘I’m your 2C mama’ because think about how much time the kids spend at school. I tell them ‘This is our family, and I’m your 2C mama.’”

She was a student teacher in West Lafayette during college, but Pottschmidt said she learned a lot more as an aide with Baker because she spent the whole school year in that role.

“I was a teacher then, and she and I would do a lot of co-teaching together. That was so fun,” Pottschmidt said.

Her dream was to come back to teach at Brownstown Elementary, and that came true in the 1992-93 school year.

Three years in, there wasn’t enough kids for an extra classroom in third grade, so Pottschmidt moved to second grade.

Technology was a huge change during her career. When students began using Chromebooks every day and she started using a smartboard, she said those were adjustments.

“I can’t imagine life without it now. We play educational games and review that way,” she said of the smartboard.

Second-graders still do a lot of writing, but instead of handwriting stories on paper, they now type them on their Chromebook. Pottschmidt said they know how to open a Google Doc, change the font and more.

“It’s crazy the change,” she said.

Writing stories is a big focus of second grade these days, she said.

“I always say first grade, you’re learning to read, and in second grade, we’re really honing those skills,” she said. “They are mastering their phonics in first grade, and then when they come to second grade, we review all of that, but then we’re moving on. So then, because we have to get them ready for science and social studies textbooks where they are reading to learn, we’re really fine-tuning those reading skills and math skills. Problem-solving is big in second grade.”

With teaching in general, Pottschmidt said it’s great to see kids get the concepts and the light bulb goes off.

“That’s when you think ‘I love my job’ because they made that connection,” she said. “Borrowing is a huge skill in second grade. We learn how to borrow. We do regrouping and addition and subtraction, but subtraction, that’s tough. When those kids are finally getting it, it’s like, ‘Oh, my babies are growing up.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, you’ve got it.’”

She also said it’s a fun age.

“You see them mature so much,” she said. “When they come in as end-of-the-year first-graders and take them all the way to end-of-the-year second-graders, it’s huge.”

Turning in her retirement letter to Principal Chrystal Street was difficult, but Pottschmidt said she knew it was time.

“I cried. It’s just such a weird feeling,” she said. “I love my job. It’s who you are. This is how I identify. I’m a teacher, and it’s all I ever wanted to do or ever wanted to be. It’s just so weird to think I won’t come to this building next (school) year.”

The arrival of her first grandchild, Addilyn, on Dec. 16, 2021, was a big driving force in her decision to retire.

When she arrived home after turning in her retirement letter, Pottschmidt was greeted by her daughter-in-law, Brycelyn, who had brought Addilyn there to bring comfort to her “Nonna.”

Also, Pottschmidt’s parents are 88 and 89, so she said it’s just time to spend time with her family.

A positive is she wrapped up her career on a good note.

“What I wanted to do my whole life, I got to,” she said. “I’ve been blessed to do what I always wanted to do. It was nice to be able to live your life doing what you love. Then it’s not a job.”

Pottschmidt’s husband, Philip, and eldest son, Wes, are farmers. Their middle child, Megan, just finished college and was hired as a fourth grade teacher at Seymour-Redding Elementary School, and their youngest son, Levi, is a three-sport athlete and is going into his junior year at Trinity Lutheran High School.

Seeing one of her kids choose the same profession as her is special to Pottschmidt.

“It’s really special … that she’s keeping that going,” she said. “She saw I enjoyed my job. She saw my passion for it.”

Pottschmidt file 

Name: Sharon Pottschmidt

Age: 52

Hometown: Vallonia

Residence: Brownstown

Education: Brownstown Central High School (1987); Purdue University (bachelor’s degree in elementary education, 1991); Indiana University Southeast (master’s degree in elementary education, 1994)

Occupation: Recently retired after teaching for 30 years at Brownstown Elementary School

Family: Husband, Philip Pottschmidt; sons, Wes (Brycelyn) Pottschmidt and Levi Pottschmidt; daughter, Megan Pottschmidt; granddaughter, Addilyn Pottschmidt

Brownstown Central Community School Corp. 2021-22 retirees 

Alan Ballard: Bus driver (45 years)

Barry Cutter: High school science teacher (40 years)

Anne Marie Martin: Special needs preschool teacher (15 years)

Sharon Pottschmidt: Second grade teacher (30 years)

Kathy Roark: High school night shift custodian (15 years)

Pat Sovern: Middle school resource teacher (24-plus years)

Dennis Wheeler: Maintenance (25 years)