Since day one

Since day one

We’re starting over

Although CCC sponsor Ron Poplau will miss teaching, he looks forward to a busy retirement

“I will do my best to withdraw and not cry on the last day,” social studies teacher Ron Poplau said. “I want to walk out. It’s over.”

After 46 years, it really is over.

This may the last time students overhear Poplau raving about Woodrow Wilson or his cats. He will no longer deliver the Cougar Community Commitment faculty secret pal gifts, or check CCC students out of the building.

Even as it all comes to an end at Northwest, Poplau aspires to keep giving back through volunteering at an animal shelter, thrift store and with his church.

“Nobody has a problem with retirement,” Poplau said. “You end up being more busy than you were when you were teaching. I know that I’ll miss it. You’re starting over. We’re starting over.”

Poplau taught in Kansas City, Kan., St. Paul, Minn. and in Brazil prior to joining the NW staff. He has spent 54 years in education.

“I actually didn’t want to be a teacher,” Poplau said.

Before a principal called him about a social studies teacher job opening, offering Poplau a place to stay and a “generous” salary, Poplau worked at an office.

“I said, ‘Sure, no problem, but I don’t want to spend my life in a classroom,’” Poplau said. “He said, ‘Give it a try.’”

Armed with just a teacher’s license, the first three months were rough for Poplau, as he didn’t have much experience working in a classroom.

“ I remember sitting at my desk saying, ‘I’ve tried everything, I’ll try another year,’” Poplau said. “Another year became another year, and now it’s 54.”

Throughout his career in teaching, Poplau has started over more than once. After teaching a variety of social studies classes, particularly sociology, he began to develop unique program of his own.

In 1992, the CCC program was founded at Northwest, started by Poplau and 17 students. CCC became a model for community services program nationwide, landing Poplau the 2006 Kansas Teacher of the Year award.

His motto? “The Doer of Good Becomes Good.” He wrote a book about this philosophy. Today, each semester, six CCC classes of more than 140 juniors and seniors volunteer in and around Shawnee.

“Poplau’s retirement is going to affect everyone at Northwest,” CCC Executive Board member Korbyn Caswell said. “He has done so much for this school and for our community. I hope and pray that the students and faculty continue to keep CCC alive. It’s not just a class – it’s a habit. I hope it continues.”“I like the mission statement of CCC. The doer of good becomes good. We want you to be successful, we want you to be happy. The only way you can do that is to help other people. It’s no secret. That’s true happiness, that’s success. The best things in life are not things. The best things in life are people. Remember that.” – Ron Poplau

The chalk lives on

Calculus teacher Van Rose will continue his 46 year young teaching and coaching career

“I’m not retiring.”

It’s true. Advanced Placement calculus teacher and first Northwest cross country coach Van Rose is not retiring.

“People here have asked me ‘Why don’t you retire?’” Rose said. “The teachers, the custodians, the secretaries – they’re all really, really nice to me. I’m not going to find people of that calibre – well-educated and just really nice people .”

After teaching at SM East for a year, Rose started his teaching career at Northwest as a math teacher and as the cross country coach in 1969 when Northwest was first established.

“I knew the influence teachers and coaches had on me,” Rose said. “I’m thinking maybe I could do the same thing, maybe I could impact the kids the same way.”

Rose was named a 1995 and 2003 Distinguished Teacher, but the integration of technology into the classroom still stumps him sometimes.

“I rely upon my kids ,” Rose said. “That’s fine, I don’t need to know everything.”

After working with students for so long, Rose has a wealth of knowledge and insight, but he still wants more and attends a week-long AP class every summer.

“There’s so much out there, both coaching-wise and teaching-wise,” Rose said. “I think once you say ‘I know it all, I’ve got it figured out now,’ that’s when you want to give it up.”

He coached 21 boys’ and 13 girls’ cross country championship-winning teams, and has been cheering Northwest on both in the classroom and on the field.

“Kids start off as non-competitive athletes,” Rose said. “Then they get this epiphany like, ‘Wow, I can really do this.’ They see it in the classroom and they see it in athletic areas. Those are some of my best memories.”

Rose’s brother, sister, son, daughter, niece and nephew are all NW graduates.

“I even got to coach my son,” Rose said. “So, yes, Northwest is a home. Very much so.”

Almost every day around 3 p.m., Rose dons his running shoes and takes a couple of laps around the school.

“If I went home, I’d just be sitting,” Rose said. “Yeah, I do some things like refinishing furniture – I enjoy doing that. But there wouldn’t be any people around me; I’d be doing that by myself. Just waiting for the end. I don’t want to do that. I want to be active.”

Rose tells his students he will only retire when he runs out of chalk.

“I bought more chalk,” Rose said. “And I found a second overhead, so I’m okay.”

“ is their work ethic,” Rose said. “It’s coming in here and going through the routine. In my class, every day, you have an assignment to do. You do the assignment, you check to make sure it’s correct and you’ve shown the appropriate amount of work. It’s routine like that. I think that carries over. I call it the pursuit of excellence. I want to be the very best student I can be, the very best driver I can be, the very best friend I can be, son, daughter, husband, wife that I can be. I think it starts here.”  – Van Rose