Columns, Opinion

A look back over years spent teaching

By John Culp/ guest columnist

I came from a 420-acre farm 7 miles north of Warrensburg.  I started first grade in 1953.  All my schooling, Grade 1 through Grade 12 was in the Humphreys Building.  All of us were part of the Training School, with lots of student teachers, especially in high school.  We had outstanding teachers in all our classes.

Photo submitted by John Culp

Two men greatly influenced my life as a teacher and coach.  Clarence Whiteman, PE teacher and head coach for football, basketball and track and field. Clarence Whiteman is in the UCM Athletic Hall of Fame for being an outstanding football player for the Mules in the early 1920s. He was a top basketball official when, in those days, only one referee was on the court.

I always remember him saying, “I will take boys and make them into men!”  He was tough, and all his boys respected him because of his character and integrity.  He put the fear of God in all of us!

I remember my freshman year as a Colt, I qualified for the state meet in Columbia.  All the way on 13 Highway to Interstate 70, he had his right turn signal on and none of us had the courage to tell him it was on!

Coach always wrote on the blackboard in our locker room in Garrison before each home football game, “Block, Tackle, Pursuit.”  Those three words have never changed in my life as high school football coach. I loved Coach Clarence Whiteman!

The other Clarence in my life was my vocational agriculture teacher/Student Council Advisor Clarence Pearce. I had no idea how those Friday morning public speeches would impact my entire life. This prepared me to be able to stand and talk in front of people without being nervous.

The other valuable lesson for all of us on College High Student Council: Mr. Pearce would leave the room and allowed us to make decisions on how to improve our school and student body.  He believed that all of us would make the right decision.  He was also a man of character and integrity.

Clarence Pearce and Clarence Whiteman were role models for all the students at College High. Caring for our classmates and our community were important to all the students at College High.  I graduated from high school in 1965 and our commencement was in Hendricks Hall.  Being on the college campus for 12 years of school made the transition to college a non-event. There was a special bond between the Training School and the College.

I spent 30 years in the public schools as a teacher and a coach.  I was at UCM 18 years from 1999-2018. I was blessed to have been a Colt and part of the UCM Athletic Department as the student-athlete retention coordinator. When talking to recruits about what separates UCM from other universities, I say that this campus is a community and a family.  This is as true today as it was in 1953. I have a love for both schools.

I wish everyone a happy UCM Homecoming. It is always good to come home.

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