Lois Hays enjoys teaching first graders because she loves listening to their stories.
“They are so matter-of-fact — they tell it like it is,” she says. “And they laugh at my jokes even though my jokes are ridiculous.”
She adds her favorite thing about teaching is “sharing in the delight when a kid realizes they’re right or they learned something.”
Hays, who is in her 41st year of teaching, has spent her entire career at Centerville. Back when she was graduating from the University of Northern Iowa, competition for jobs was so tough that when she got the one job she had interviewed for she felt she should hide the good news from her friends who were still waiting.
Her dad was glad she got the offer in Centerville because it brought her back home — she had grown up in adjacent Wayne County. She was hired by Jack Hoenshel, who was the superintendent for many years, to teach special education. After 10 years in special education, she switched to first grade and has been teaching that ever since.
First grade is an important year, Hays says, because she and the children spend a lot of time on the three basics of respect, responsibility and trustworthiness, a curriculum for which parental support is extremely important.
Hays looks back fondly on the parental support she herself received. Her parents were delighted she was going to college because they had not had that opportunity, she says.
One change Hays has seen over the years is that more students are already reading at the beginning of first grade.
“Nowadays a lot of kids come in reading,” she says. “Twenty years ago, about half would come in reading.”
Hays says she enjoys volunteering with Hospice and Friends of the Drake Public Library. She also loves to attend school music and sports activities, where she sees students years after they leave her first grade classroom. She especially likes it when they come back to see her.
“It’s a pleasure to see them grow over the years and graduate from Centerville and go on,” she says. “They come back and say, ‘Hey, do you remember me?’ or ‘Do you still tell the same old jokes?’ ”