50-year-old teachers at St. Joseph in Fremont share insights


All three have been teaching for 150 years, all but four at Fremont St. Joe.

They say it’s harder to be a teacher now because you have to document everything; more children need special help; and even renewing your license is much more complicated.

But, the three of them plan to be back outside their classrooms on Croghan Street next year.

Dick Reineck, Gary Geller and Rick Wonderly shared the experience of teaching “In This Little Cocoon” at St. Joe’s for approximately 50 years each.

Although they share the experiences of teaching in a private school through 10 different principals, faculty changes and generations of students, they have not followed exactly the same paths.

Wonderly, who taught three years at other schools in northwest Ohio before joining the staff at St. Joe as a teacher and football coach in 1974, always planned to be a farmer in full time and has not seen himself taught for more than half a century.

2nd chemistry teacher since 1946

Despite this, he followed Walt Snider as the second of only two chemistry teachers to serve St. Joe from 1946 to present.

Reineck joined the St. Joseph staff as one big piece of a huge family tradition tied to Catholic high school. He graduated from school in 1966, went to college, and returned to teach mathematics for the 1970–71 school year.

Geller played a very diverse role during his 47 years, beyond his teaching mathematics. He also taught yearbook, photography, and “history of rock and roll.” Once he was asked if he could drive a van and when the answer was “yes” he became a golf coach.

All three coached for many years at school. Wonderly took a football team to the state championship playoffs; Geller coached girls basketball for decades and once agreed to coach the baseball team only if Rick Barbour was his assistant to handle the actual on-court coaching, and Reineck was the assistant coach of struggle.

Asked about the changes since the days when Catholic nuns and priests did much of the teaching, the trio agreed that the children haven’t really changed much.

“Society has changed,” was the message.

The changes mean teachers are making sure they are never alone in a class with a student; more parents are making excuses for kids and teachers are “not as demanding” as they used to be.

Some changes are good and some are, well…

Rick Wonderly remembers asking a principal at one of the schools where he taught before joining the St. Joe staff how to handle a troublesome student.

The answer: “If you have any problems, just throw them in a locker and tell me which locker needs fixing.” This was in the early 1970s and this change definitely falls into the “good” category.

Children expect ‘instant gratification’

Geller pointed out that due to advances in technology, “kids are used to instant gratification” and “need to be entertained more.”

Why St. Joe for so long?

“The feeling of the building grabs you,” Geller said.

They laughed when someone said, “A tough discipline day is telling someone to tuck in their shirt.”

An exaggeration, certainly, but the point has been made.

And they will all come back.

Roy Wilhelm began a 40-year career with The News-Messenger in 1965 as a journalist. Now retired, he writes a column for The News-Messenger and News Herald.


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