In a year of many retirements among USD 465 teachers and staff, another longtime teacher is leaving the district. But she’s not ready to retire.

Lynn Gerber has taught 26 years in Winfield, first at the middle school and then at the high school. Before that she taught 10 years in Wichita. Now she and her husband Dennis, former principal of Winfield Middle School, are moving to Oklahoma City to be nearer to their son Beau, his wife and their three children.

Dennis retired several years ago to take over Lynn’s family’s business, and he will continue with that business in OKC.

Lynn will stay in public education. “I wasn’t thinking about retiring,” she said. “I’m thinking of working another 10 or more years.” 

A Rose Hill native, Gerber wasn’t thinking about teaching as a career, although her mother was a teacher. Instead, in sixth grade she heard about a doctor who was doing pediatric heart transplants and determined to follow him in her career. 

The problem with her career choice — she doesn’t like hospitals, blood or medicine. Once she went to the emergency room with a friend who had been hurt, and Gerber fainted when her friend had a blood transfusion.

By the time Gerber was a senior in high school, she still hadn’t made up her mind. When her mother asked her about her plans, Gerber said, “I just want to help children.” She said she’s always loved helping people. 

She and her mom visited the Institute for Logopedics in Wichita, and Gerber came away determined to major in speech pathology, for which she earned two degrees while also majoring in English.

When she started in Winfield, she worked as a speech pathologist in both the middle and the high schools. Then Jim Ratzlaff, high school principal at the time, told her they needed an English teacher. And that was it. “I think I was born to be in a classroom,” Gerber said. “I’ve loved everything I’ve ever done in a school. It’s a true blessing.”

“She’s absolutely amazing,” said retiring WHS teacher Kris Trimmer. “She does it all. She teaches; she mentors; she cares for the kids and for her fellow teachers. If something needs to be done, she’s right in the middle of it.”

One of her favorite parts of teaching in the same district over so many years is getting to know generations of the same family — parents, children, the children of children. “They have a history and I get to  know it and share it,” Gerber said.

“She has the biggest heart,” Trimmer said. “My words don’t do her justice.”

One of the biggest challenges for her, she said, is “keeping up with the challenges the children have — the economic and social struggles of families, the unstable family life. She has met kindergarteners who were homeless.

“I understood early in my career that everybody was not dealt the same hand of cards. Society’s expectations of what schools can do for children are always changing. Our first responsibility is to the child. We try to meet everyone’s needs.”

Because she wasn’t ready to retire, Gerber decided to apply for teaching jobs in Oklahoma City. Through she’s taught in a rural community for so long, some of the experiences she’s had in Winfield prepared her for an inner city school experience, she said. 

One thing that’s happened to Winfield since she and her family moved to town is that the school district went from being a white collar, middle class system to one where a large percentage of the children are eligible for free and reduced breakfasts and lunches. 

Before the pandemic, Winfield High School brought a number of foreign students to the city for an exchange year. There were “wonderful opportunities” for different academic experiences, Gerber said.

Rubbermaid and Creekstone have brought in new families, new populations to expand the workforce. 

Many of the children Gerber’s worked with are classified as English language learners. She loves the broadening of the demographics, the diversity of the population so that children have a good chance of being exposed to different ways of life. 

Teaching for her is a vocation, not a job. “I’m not interested in stopping. I can’t imagine not doing it,” she said.

She applied to several schools in Oklahoma City “on a whim,” and waited a while to hear from them. Several asked for more information, and several gave her an interview. 

The school she chose is an inner city school where she will have a new kind of job. 

She will be an instructional coach, mentoring and coaching teachers. She’ll be working in Social Studies and English classrooms with the teachers, modeling and demonstrating how to teach, how to manage their classrooms better, helping the teachers be more successful so that they can help their students be more successful.

“It’s a good challenge for me,” Gerber said.

“She has more energy, more love in her heart,” Trimmer said. “I’m a fan.”

Though she’s looking forward to the move, she’s also sad. “Winfield will always be home,” she said.

“I am so grateful” to have lived here. 

“A part of my heart will always be here.”

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