GREGORY — The disappointment is evident in Peg Glover’s voice.
She speaks proudly of the students she’s taught in 44 years at the same small town South Dakota school district. She talks with passion about her educational methods and being a person the Gregory High School kids can confide in or go to for advice.
But to end like this is heartbreaking.
“This isn’t really teaching, and what I love about my profession I’m getting none of,” she said Wednesday in an interview with The Daily Republic. “There’s no interaction with the kids. ... You’ve lost all that. You just sit in front of a computer screen.”
Glover began her teaching career in the fall of 1976 in her hometown of Gregory. Later this month, as the coronavirus continues to hold its firm grasp on society, she’ll finish in the same place. Her final months of teaching have been spent not in person with this final group of seniors but with her computer teaching from home.
Her impact at the school has been significant. So much so that one community member called The Daily Republic at least three times to remind our staff the importance of telling Glover’s story and journaling her long-tenured presence in the district.
Of course, her career is impressive. To teach high school English and math in her hometown for more than four decades is unusual in itself.
Attending the University of South Dakota, Glover said she had a calling to be a teacher. While education wasn’t her first area of study during her freshman year, she soon transitioned to it knowing that’s what she should have done all along.
She was married to her husband, Tom, between her junior and senior years of college. And when he started working for the Burke School District, Glover positioned herself to practice teaching near him. She contacted the education department at USD, which had a connection with the administration at the Gregory district. After practice teaching in the spring, Glover landed her first and only full-time job, which she started in the fall.
Early on, she said, there were some difficulties transitioning to being an authoritative figure in the community, having grown up there. But she chose to treat every student the same and set high standards. And that’s worked.
Though she acknowledges the comic value in teaching English and math, being they're “two very distinct disciplines.”
“I like the challenge of it because it uses two different parts of your brain,” she said. “How you function with speaking and writing, that comes from one side of your brain, and the math and logic come from the other. I think it offered me a good challenge everyday.”
Glover in February turned in her resignation to the Gregory School District school board, about a month before COVID-19 halted everyday life. She needed to renew her teaching certification to keep going but decided it was time to retire.
The last time she had an in-person interaction with Gregory’s senior students was Tuesday, March 10, three days before Gov. Kristi Noem first called for the closure of South Dakota’s schools. Wednesday, March 11, while the seniors were in Pierre to watch the Legislature work, she had her final day teaching at school. Spring break was Thursday and Friday of that week.
Since then, she’s adapted to and accepted the new teaching platform for students to receive assignments online.
Next week, though, as the senior class adviser, she’ll assemble a video call for the seniors to open a time capsule they all made when they were freshmen. It’s a tradition she’s held over the years. She tears up knowing she’ll read the Dr. Seuss book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” on that call one final time and is a little let down there will be no annual end-of-the-year teacher gathering.
But while there’s disappointment, there’s also reflection and hope, especially for the 2020 graduating class.
“This is a rotten way for them to have to end their high school career, and it’s a rotten way for me to have to end my career,” she said, “but that doesn’t take away from all their memories of high school, and it doesn’t take away from my joy of teaching. It doesn’t diminish that at all. You can’t let it. This can’t be the sour note that ends my career, and I don’t want it to be that way for them either.”