Last of Original WPHS Teachers Is Retiring

WHEELING – Science teacher Mary Kay Hustead said working with high school students has “kept her young,” but after 36 years of teaching anatomy and genetics, Hustead is the last of the original staff of Wheeling Park High School to retire.

Hustead, a graduate of West Virginia University, taught at Triadelphia High School for two years before the three local high schools – Triadelphia, Wheeling and Warwood – consolidated in 1976, bringing almost 2,000 students in three grade levels, along with some long-standing rivalries, together in one school.

“It was exciting, but unsure, because we were combining three different parts of Wheeling into one. It was a lot of trial and error,” Hustead said. “I can remember coming up here when they were building the school and walking across wooden planks from the dirt road to get into the building. What was really exciting about the new school was the fact that we were able to plan the classrooms and the labs where tables and chairs went.”

Hustead remembered students accustomed to single-room classrooms being shocked by “open classrooms” in the new building, where four teachers would teach four classes in one large area. She said the open classroom concept was popular in the 1970s, but it didn’t last long. The high school eventually put up partitions and new walls to separate classrooms.

Technology has brought the most changes in education since she began teaching at the high school – a time when teachers hadn’t even heard of email.

“I remember going to Wheeling Jesuit (University) … for a seminar explaining what emails were all about, because we had never heard of them before,” she said. “Now they all have their laptops and computers and cell phones. We also have online classes with the computers and students can take courses online.”

Hustead said one of the biggest changes technology has brought is the declining use of textbooks in schools. Now students are expected “take more responsibility” for their research on a subject by using the Internet to gain information. She said teachers now act more like facilitators for student-driven learning instead of conducting more traditional, lecture-based classes of the past.

Hustead began her career using paper gradebooks, she said, but now teachers post grades online where parents can see their children’s grades daily and at a moment’s notice. She also noted students now pay for lunches with a finger-scan instead of showing an identification or giving a number and teachers and students use keyless doors and elevators with a swipe card. She has also seen the elimination of traditional blackboards, typewriters and even pay phones as technology has taken over education.

“Recently, I had an old film strip projector saved and there was one part I wanted my students to see,” she said. “I brought it out and they said, ‘What is that? A heater?’ They had no clue what a film strip was or what a projector was.”