Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Ries, Hanson plan for life after Big Foot High School
Heading National Honors Society

by Rob Ireland

May 19, 2011

Walworth — Marsha Ries’ eyes become red as she holds back tears when she talks about leaving Big Foot High School.

“I love teaching, teaching is who I am,” Ries, a history teacher, said about her upcoming retirement.

Ries, who has taught history for 20 years at the school, is retiring at the end of the year.

But at the beginning of the school year, Ries didn’t think this would be her last semester in a classroom. In fact she planned to teach for another three to five years.

However, the political climate in Wisconsin has changed and so has the security of Ries’ pension, she said. She said the reason she retired was to ensure her retirement stayed intact.

Ries teaches U.S. History, Advance Placement U.S. History and a Vietnam War course at the school.

“I love all of history. I can’t possibly understand what is going on today without knowing the past,” Reis said. “You can’t be well-educated without knowing what happened.”

Reis’ colleagues say she has knack for teaching students and is passionate about history.

Mark Hanson, an art teacher at the school, said his adult son, who was in Reis’ class, said she was one of the best teachers he ever had.

“He said he learned something for her,” Hanson said.

Pat Schenk, a special education teacher at Big Foot High School, said she has worked with Reis in her classroom.

“Everyone knows that she cares about the kids and her subject,” Schenk said.

To keep more kids involved, Reis organizes the student’s desks in a nontraditional format, which brings more kids to the front row. The students in the back row also are a little closer to the action than normal.

On Fridays, students review current events and Reis throws a globe, a soft one, around the classroom. Wherever a student’s thumb lands, he or she has to tell Reis something that is occurring in that country.

Reis said during this exercise she looks for students to connect history to explain what is occurring in the world.

“I want to get on a table and dance when I hear the kids make an application,” Reis said. “It happens more than you can imagine.”

Reis said the Vietnam War class provides students with a detailed understanding of the conflict, and Reis said most schools don’t offer classes that provide this type of depth.

“By the time they leave the class they have a good handle on it,” Reis said. “When they get it, they can make the connection.”

Reis said she enjoys teaching freshman at the school because she enjoys witnessing the students’ growth.

“When they arrive in the fall, they are little kids, and in the spring they are young adults,” Reis said. “It is the biggest mental growth.”

In addition to teaching, Reis also is the adviser for the school’s National Honor Society, a position which she has held for about 12 years.

Since Reis took over the program, it has evolved into a civic organization that works within the community.

Performing well academically isn’t the only requirement to be part of the National Honor Society. Students also are required to develop character and leadership skills and perform community service.

Reis believes it is important to have students perform community service. The NHS students fundraiser for various organizations, work on food drive, assist in community events including the Fire and Rescue Chicken Barbecue and Big Foot Lobster Boil and organize blood drives.

“When you start giving blood early you end up making it a lifelong habit,” she said.

Recently, the students held a taco night to raise funds for Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

“These kids are so bright, they need to know that being bright isn’t enough,” Reis said. “It is amazing to watch them flower in NHS.”

In retirement

Reis said she hasn’t had a lot of time to wrap her head around retiring and doesn’t have big plans.

“I’m going to read a lot. I have a big garden, I’ll be working in that a lot,” Reis said.

She also has three adult children and seven grandchildren, two of whom haven’t entered school yet.

Reis said she also may consider some long-term substitute teaching.