Penny (Kooker) Wildin has been teaching English for 23 years, 18 of those at Winterset High. Her classes include sophomore English and also a preparatory honors English college level course. She considers herself blessed for her teaching position at WHS.
“For as long as I can remember, this is what I wanted to do,” she says. “And to be able to teach in my hometown, and in the very classrooms where I sat as a student, that just makes going to work every day even more special.”
She laughs and says, “I guess that makes me a lifer here at WHS.”
However, she credits her WHS foundation for leveling the field between her and her students.
“I believe teaching has to come from the heart; you have to build a rapport with each of your students,” she explains. “That’s even more important than curriculum. Regardless of adjectives and adverbs, until you connect with your students, nothing else really matters.”
Wildin graduated from Simpson College with an English major, and a speech endorsement. Before coming to Winterset to teach, she taught at West Central/Dexfield.
“Talk about a small world,” she laughs. “At West Central/Dexfield, I was teaching 7-12 English, and just down the hall was Lee Schipull (now WHS principal) teaching social studies.”
Wildin and her husband, Alan, also an WHS alumnus, are recent empty nesters.
“Our last one just headed off to Iowa State to major in elementary education,” she says. “It’s nice to have time now to go shopping, or to read, and Alan likes to hunt, but we miss the kids and the everyday family time we spent together here.
“But, I love this town and the people. I stayed here for that reason,” she says. “And when I go to work, it’s like a second family, I have my students, and my co-workers, and what is really neat is that some of them are the very people who helped to shape me. They were my teachers and mentors.”
Her students agree that Wildin always goes that extra mile.
“Mrs. Wildin helps explain things in depth,” says Utonda White. “She helps you learn by repeating things in ways that you can understand.”
“She has a way of moving fast through the lessons and that makes the time fly in her classroom,” Layne Connelly says. “But if you miss something, she goes back over it until you get it. In other classes, it seems like the teachers just get stuck on one lesson and they make it monotonous and boring, Mrs. Wildin doesn’t.”