Reflections of a teacher who taught alongside Jim Boehmer

By the time I got hired at Pennfield, Jim Boehmer had been working there for quite a few years. He was a math teacher, like me. I was a 25-year-old novice. He wasn’t any of that. He was an experienced educator. And that was the perfect word to describe Jim… educator. I knew him almost 5 years and he embodied the label “educator” as well as anyone.

It’s easy for me to say nice things about Jim. He and I saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things. School things, home things, life things.

Jim and I were part of the District Math Team which included he and I and several of our administrators. One year, the group would meet monthly at a different school in Battle Creek with some other groups from the county. Jim and I would ride together. He would always drive because I get lost in Battle Creek. For that whole school year, once a month, Jim and I got 30 minutes to talk. Jim and I got to know each other well during that time. We talked about all sorts of stuff: school, sure, but also sports, politics, God, our similar faiths, singing, technology, theatre. It was enjoyable. We could disagree peacefully, but that didn’t happen very often.

What I did find out about him was that he was a thoughtful man who desired excellence. In the time I knew him, he never quit tinkering with his teaching style trying to find the formula that would maximize authentic student learning. He didn’t want to see his students simply pass tests. He wanted them to learn. He wanted them to enjoy real success. He knew his role in that. He was always trying to find activities that would engage the students. If you want, you can read about one of my favorite of his activities.

One more story: When the time came to reform the Algebra I classes to align with the Common Core, he and I sat down together and set out to realign the entire course. We began to review the literature and our resources and decided that we needed to create quite a lot of material… not only because we wanted them to align, but because our textbook didn’t impress us… and he wasn’t interested in a good-enough Algebra class. If it wasn’t excellent, he wasn’t done with it.

And yesterday he passed away.

And we have a giant hole to fill. But I’m sure my story isn’t unique. Jim was authentic and I’m not special. Who Jim was to me he was to so many others. And isn’t that all you can ask? Within my faith, we have a phrase that we use to honor someone special who has passed. We say, “Memory Eternal!”

If Jim was to so many what he was to me, the memories of him won’t be fading anytime soon.

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