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Monday, June 2, 2008

For the 50th time, Badger High celebrates its graduates

No matter how one thinks of it, 50 years is a long time. Five decades. Half a century. Middle age. Long enough to have produced considerable generational changes.

1958 saw America's first satellite launched. Nikita Khrushchev became premier of the Soviet Union and Dwight D. Eisenhower was in his second term as U.S. president.

Texan Van Cliburn won the Soviet Union's international Tchaikovsky piano competition and became an American hero. Alfred Hitchcock's movie Vertigo and Boris Pasternak's novel Dr. Zhivago became popular. John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society was a bestseller.

Localizing and personalizing, 1958 was the year Badger High School first opened its doors. It was the year Superintendent Vernon Pollock hired several new teachers to accommodate expansion. I was one of those new hires. There were 32 classroom teachers in Badger's first year.

I'll never forget that June day my wife and I came to Lake Geneva for the interview. It was not a typical administrator's day. The Lake Geneva High School Class of 1958 was having its commencement that evening and the superintendent's twin son and daughter were graduating.

Almost two miles away the new Badger High was under construction. When Mr. Pollock chose to show us around the community, I couldn't help wondering how that new facility could be ready in less than three months.

Working with Pollock for 14 years demonstrated that spending two hours with us on his son and daughter's graduation day was not an unusual gesture. He was good at assessing the characteristics of prospective teachers.

In retrospect one has to conclude Badger High hit the ground running in 1958. For 28 of those 50 years I served as a classroom teacher.

Now here we are, half a century later and the school is graduating its 50th class. There's a story there that deserves telling, about a local high school, the closest measure of a community's values and expectations.

Indeed, 50 years and close to 10,000 graduates who spent their formative years within its walls--it all seems something worth celebrating.

Indeed, 50 years is a long time, and to document the significant national and international events of those five decades would be to record powerful forces. Yet despite changes and disruptions, public schools have survived and for the most part, flourished.

What is important about high school is what one experiences there. If that is positive, then what one learns is bound to be significant. Ninety-eight Badgers and 257 2008 graduating seniors could tell you all about it.

Laying the groundwork for a useful functioning school is not easy, and as this 50th anniversary year comes to a close, remembering how we came to it is important. Authors and architects like Vernon Pollock are still performing their essentially unsung work.

Happy 50th, Badger High and the citizens of Union District No. 1.

The author is a retired English teacher from Badger High School.

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Some Badger Statistics

Badger High has graduated 9,683 students in its first fifty years. That includes the Class of 2008. The 10,000 Badger graduate should cross the stage to receive his or her diploma in June 2009. That is appropriate because the Class of 2009 (today's juniors) is the largest in Badger history.

When the school opened in 1958, there was considerable reluctance in public schools to hire husband and wife on the same staff. That changed in the 1960's.

It was also a sensitive issue if a teacher did not live in the district he served. Today 68 of the certified Badger staff live outside the district.

With 32 teachers when Badger opened, there were 18 support staff. Today with 98 classroom teachers, there are 60 support staff. That includes only those who work directly for Badger High.

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