By ROBERT PIERCE • Daily Leader
When the 2009-2010 school year begins in Liberal, two familiar faces will be missing from the halls of two USD No. 480 schools.
After more than 80 years in the education profession combined, Dr.
Travis Wilson and his wife, Cheryl, are retiring at the end of this school year.
Cheryl, now a counselor at Liberal High School, has been involved with education for 41 years, and Travis, principal at Garfield Elementary, has been in the field of teaching for 42 years.
Travis began his career in Sentinel, Okla., while Cheryl started in Hobart, Okla.
“Then we moved to the Beaver, Forgan (Okla.) area and were there 25 years,” Travis said. “Retired in Oklahoma and moved here to Liberal, and we’ve been here for 14 years.”
Since coming to the Liberal school district in 1995, Travis said he and Cheryl have enjoyed being a part of a dynamic district.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes since we’ve been here,” Travis said.
“We’ve seen the student data base system changed two or three times.
We’ve seen a lot of changes that’s been positive.”
Travis began his career in 1967, while Cheryl started in 1968.
“The reason why she didn’t start in ’67, she went through school in two and a half years, and she wasn’t old enough to get a teaching certificate,” Travis said.
Both Wilsons attended Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and both have bachelor’s and master’s from the Weatherford school. Travis later received a doctorate from Oklahoma State.
He said the memories he and Cheryl will take with them mainly concern the people they have worked with.
“One of the things I enjoy the most is when I’m out in the public, and I have students come up to me that I had 20, 30 years ago,”
Cheryl said. “Many times, I don’t recognize them, but they know me. I always tell them you have to tell me your name because there’s a lot more of you. There’s just one of me to remember everybody. I really enjoy that when they come up and talk to me.”
She said she has students from her days teaching in Beaver who will recognize her, as well as the students from Liberal.
“That’s really fun and satisfying,” she said.
Travis said he has two accomplishments he is most proud of, including starting a library at West Middle School and building a playground at Garfield.
“I started a professional learning community here at Garfield,” he said. “We feel that has really helped us curriculum wise.”
He said professional learning communities empower teachers to make curriculum decisions in a positive way, and the scores prove it.
Cheryl said one of her favorite things she does is in conjunction with the Liberal Chamber of Commerce – putting on LHS’s annual academic banquet.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve given away $70,000 locally,” she said. “That says a lot for the community of Liberal. I have a great time seeing to it that all takes place. That’s just a real neat thing that we can thank Liberal for. There’s not too many places that give that much money.”
Garfield’s Adequate Yearly Progress scores have improved as well since Travis began as principal.
“We went from a 59 to a 79,” he said. “We’ve raised our scores 20 percent. These were kindergartners when we started. The reading level was 43.1 percent. We’ve brought that up to 87 percent. That’s a 44 percent increase.”
Travis said this is a pat on the back for teachers at Garfield.
“It’s something they’ve accomplished,” he said. “They started in the kindergarten grades, worked on it in the first and the second and accomplished it in the third. The teachers have worked hard.”
Cheryl said she is going to miss working with students and seeing young people on a daily basis.
“That’s why we’re here,” she said. “If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have a job, and we wouldn’t have a career. I wouldn’t stay in something for 41 years that I didn’t enjoy. It’s the students that I’m going to miss and the people I work with who have that same passion for students.”
The couple is now planning to move to Edmond, Okla., to be closer to family.
“We’re going to chase grandkids,” Travis said. “We’re looking forward to doing that on a full-time basis.”
Cheryl said when she and Travis first came to Liberal, she didn’t expect to be here for 14 years.
“We’d retired once already in Oklahoma,” she said. “We had officially retired, and so we thought we’d come up here for a few years. Here we are on year 14. One of our children graduated from here, too. He had good experiences.”
Cheryl said coming to Liberal from smaller towns like Beaver, Forgan and Hobart took some adjustments.
“To us, this was coming to the big city,” she said. “Our district didn’t even have 1,200 kids in it, and that’s what the high school has. It was definitely an adjustment for us, but it’s definitely a very accepting place and a small town atmosphere. I’m going to miss it a lot.”
The Wilsons, who said their son has now graduated, have experienced education from both the school and parental role.
“We’ve experienced it first hand as parents of a student here,” he said. “We’re proud of the education that he’s gotten and experienced as educators.”
Travis said he and Cheryl’s careers seemed to go in opposite directions after moving to Liberal.
“When we moved up here, Cheryl started out in elementary and ended up in the high school,” he said. “I started in the middle school and ended up in elementary.”