Jane Obernuefemann has worn many hats in O’Fallon District 90’s schools over the past 40 years. But the social studies teacher will be calling it quits at the end of next school year.
Obernuefemann loves her job.
“What other job can you go to and after 40 years say you are still loving it?” she said.
Growing up in Belleville, Obernuefemann knew her career choices were limited.
“I did not have a lot of job offers,” she said.
When Obernuefemann was young, her job choices were limited to teaching, nursing and being a secretary. She said she grew up in an era where girls often didn’t go to college.
“So it was fun to be able to go to college (at SIU-Edwardsville),” Obernuefemann said.
But as soon as she started her student-teaching assignment at Laverna Evans Elementary School in O’Fallon, she fell in love with her job.
“I always wanted to work with children,” she said.
Obernuefemann started her career on the day Evans was opened. Since she had no desk, she had to keep all of her teaching supplies in a tote box. She also remembers the district not having all of the equipment they needed to teach.
“What do we do when we don’t have the supplies to teach?” Obernuefemann remembered asking herself.
District 90 ended up hiring Obernuefemann as a second and third grade teacher after her student-teaching assignment.
From there, she went to Hinchcliffe School, teaching first grade. She stayed there for 10 years before she moved back to Evans and put in five more years there as a sixth grade science teacher. She then went back to Evans for five years, before she went to teach science at Estelle Kampmeyer for another five years. She was then transferred to Marie Schaefer where she taught science for another five year stretch. Obernuefemann moved to Carriel, when it opened.
Her most memorable teaching experience occurred when she switched from a first grade to sixth grade teacher.
“When I made that move, the first grade students I had as first graders, I saw again as sixth graders,” she said.
“So, I saw their development. It was amazing. Their personalities were the same. But their education had improved.”
When Obernuefemann started teaching, she also thought she was going to change the world. “I thought I would have such a great impact on them,” she said.
Obernuefemann said she will never forget seeing her first grade students eyes staring at her when they began learning how to read a story with her. “They read one word at a time,” she said.
But there is that day, some day in the school year, when the students have been reading maybe three or four weeks and the child stops.
“Then you get the headlights,” she said. “Then, you see the light bulbs go on. They then look at you so seriously and say they can read.”
In sixth grade, Obernuefemann finds students who want to be so grown up. “In one minute they are a child needing every bit of attention they had a first grader, and still need it as a sixth grader,” she said. “But in the next minute, they want that independence,” she said. “Instead of coming up to the teacher like they do as a first grader telling you about when their puppy dog jumped on their lap, in sixth grade you have a student saying ‘Mrs. O, can I tell you a joke?’ They come at you every angle, but they still need that attention. They need rules and control. They need someone to guide them.”
Obernuefemann believes all children want to succeed and give their best effort in school. “They do have days when they drive us crazy,” she said. “But I think that happens with any parent and teacher.”
After teaching first grade for about 10 years, Obernuefemann asked her building principal at the time she would like to be moved to a higher grade level. But she didn’t know if she could adjust to teaching older students. “All summer I worried about that,” she said.
But as it turned out, Obernuefemann had nothing to worry about.
Teaching, however is only a small a part of her job, she said. It all comes down to students, and how she interacts with her students. “Students are what teaching is about,” she said. “Anybody can go in with a book and say I can read an article. But it’s what you do with that article after you read it. How do you bring it to present day?”
Right now, one of the biggest thing her students are teaching her deals with is technology. “No matter how good you think you are, someone in the class has figured it out more quickly and in a better way,” she said.
But a successful teacher has to be more than teach lessons in the classroom. “You also are a parent, a facilitator, and an artist. You are whatever the need is that day for that lesson to get across,” she said. “You are even a clown some days, up and front entertaining. You have to do it all to reach the students.”
Obernuefemann did whatever it was necessary to reach the students. “I remember while I was teaching first grade, I did cartwheels on the playground,” she said.
However, Obernuefemann no longer does cartwheels now. “But we have dances,” she said and grinned.
Obernuefemann also takes sixth grade students on a three-day camping trip. While on the trip, you can often see her on the Tarzan rope with her students.
“I’m out there jumping off of the cliff,” she added. “I’m doing whatever the need is. You have to stay young and keep at it.”
Meet Jane Obernuefemann
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Dash. I did not want to learn my multiplication facts and she made sure I did. She was simply a teacher who took the time to make those facts interesting. In many ways, she was there to guide us and teach us education was important.
Q: If you could spend time with a famous person whom it would be?
A: Neil Armstrong. I think it would be fun to go to the moon.
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
A: I like to walk, hike, canoe and scuba dive. I like to go on vacations. I also like to get on my bike and ride for a day.
Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?
A: My desktop is usually cluttered but I can find everything on it.