- Associated Press - Saturday, August 16, 2014

HOMER, Neb. (AP) - Sitting amid a jumble of stacked chairs, piles of books and desks arranged in no particular order, Gaylene Kunzie couldn’t have been any more settled.

Yes, her classroom was in the general disarray that many teachers face 10 days before the first day of school, but she was at home.

Not in the figurative sense, the term some teachers may use to describe their classroom, the Sioux City Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1kEpOPI ).

Kunzie is home, literally, teaching in the same school from which she graduated 40 years ago. Teaching inside the same building in which she played volleyball and was a cheerleader. The same building in which she may or may not have caused a little mischief during her school days, she said with a chuckle and a sly grin.

Homer Community School opened for classes this month, and Kunzie is teaching sixth-grade reading and fifth- and sixth-grade science. She’s enjoyed all her previous stops during her 36 years as a teacher, but after concluding her 22nd year at Sioux City’s East Middle School this spring, she was looking for a change.

Kunzie initially planned to just find a new role at East Middle. Then her daughter, Emma Caskey, who teaches English in Homer, told her about a job opening there.

It was the only school district she’d leave Sioux City for, Kunzie said. She applied, but figured the school would hire a younger teacher who would fall lower on the pay scale. To Kunzie’s surprise, she was offered the job.

“It was just time to come home,” said Kunzie, a 1974 Homer graduate. “It just kind of happened. It seemed like everything just fell into place.”

Kunzie moved back to Homer about 25 years ago and lives two blocks from the school. She had two children graduate from the school while she drove to other districts to teach. She missed that connection with her hometown school.

“When you teach in another system and your kids aren’t in school anymore, you lose touch with the school,” Kunzie said.

She’ll be reconnected and back in touch soon enough.

Kunzie was a student when Homer opened the current building in 1965. She roamed these same halls through high school. She can’t remember if she ever sat in class in her current classroom, but it’s quite possible.

Getting reacquainted with the surroundings has been a little strange, she said. So much has changed, though the lunchroom and library are nearly the same as they were 40 years ago.

A lot of the last names will be familiar, too. She’ll be teaching the children and grandchildren of people she’s known since she was in school. That familiarity will help make the transition easier, Kunzie said.

Still, it hasn’t all quite sunken in yet.

Walking into the teachers’ lounge and seeing her name on her mailbox was a first step.

Getting her room in order will help make it feel a little more real.

But that feeling that this is really happening probably won’t hit until sometime Thursday morning.

“When the kids start coming in, that’s when it’s really going to hit,” Kunzie said.

It’s going to be a pleasant hit to take. Kunzie’s excited to teach science again. Having classes that are half the size of those she taught in Sioux City will give her more time to work with students individually.

Kunzie’s enthusiasm for the change is obvious in her voice.

“It’s just been invigorating, exciting, really something to look forward to,” she said. “And what better place than to come back here.”

___

Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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