By Sue Curry Jones
Teaching special education was not a part of Ginger Gastineau’s career plan when she graduated from Ava High School in 1993. Her first choice was a vocation with numbers and a job in the field of accounting. In fact, the concept of being an educator did not materialize until nearly 14 years later.
Ginger’s high school years bring back memories of being involved in many sporting activities. She played on the volleyball team her junior and senior years, and as a three-year member of the track team, she ran sprints and relays.
Ginger also played guard on the basketball team for four years, and with a smile, she remembers Mark Wendler’s first year as coach of the girls’ team.
Similarly, Gastineau’s memories of Ava High School encompass other staff members as well. She recalls her senior year as a member of the National Honor Society slave auction, and being purchased by Peggy Cutbirth, the high school business teacher. Regrettably, she does not remember how much money Peggy paid that day, but she vividly remembers working for Cutbirth.
On her designated ‘work day’, Ginger recalls walking into Peggy’s classroom where she was presented with a maid costume to wear during her day of servitude. Needless to say, the attire was totally unexpected and quite embarrassing for a high school girl. She laughs about the incident today, and readily admits that day seemed exceptionally long, and the maid outfit outlandish and quite uncomfortable. Nonetheless, she survived the task.
Ginger also remembers advice from Dr. John Scott Turner, who taught high school speech and frequently said, “make sure what you do each day is something you enjoy. Money isn’t always the important factor.”
These relationships, along with many other experiences, made an indelible impression, and in retrospect, Ginger has realized her years at Ava imparted not only academics, but life lessons as well. She experienced a profound level of encouragement, even when it was embodied in humor.
After high school, Ginger entered classes at Ozarks Technical College, where she graduated in 1996 after earning an associates degree in accounting.
Ginger worked in the accounting field for four years, but after making the long distance drive each workday, she chose to place her priorities closer to home and set-up an in-home daycare business.
During eight years of supervising and organizing playgroups for little ones, she realized her heart’s desire was to work with children, and she soon enrolled in Drury University in Springfield to become an educator.
In 2010, Ginger earned a Degree in Elementary Education, and then in 2013, she completed a Masters in Instruction and Curriculum.
Today, her focus is elementary special education K-2.
Ginger held true to her desire to work with kids and made the goal a reality. However, along the way, and at the conclusion of her college years, she had the opportunity to sub in the Bradleyville school district for a teacher on maternity leave. The eight-week job commitment was in special education.
During this time, Ginger formed a special tie with one student in her high school class and promptly realized how much she enjoyed the experience. However, it wasn’t just one student that helped her make the decision to teach special education – it was all the students. She loved their desire to learn, their excitement and unbridled exuberance.
Educating and helping children with special needs is not always easy, but according to Ginger, the positives far outweigh the paperwork and administrative duty of creating an individualized education program for each student. However, on occasion, students can present a challenge, but as in any learning situation, once that spark is ignited, it is a delight to watch them grow.
After Bradleyville, Ginger spent two years in special education at Mansfield, working in speech and language therapy. The position was a district wide responsibility, which included youths ranging in age from three-year-old preschoolers to high school students.
Now, Ginger is delighted to return to her hometown as an educator and serve the community where she grew up. She also acknowledges “it’s nice to have all my kids in one school district”.
Ginger, and her husband Jim, both went to school in Ava, and together they have five children – Austin, age 18, an Ava graduate and student at Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo.; Chase, age 16, a junior at Ava; Wyatt, 13, an eighth-grader; and eight-year-old twin girls, Olivia and Lexie, both third-grade students.
As a wife, mother and teacher, Ginger continues to maintain a high level of involvement at the school, especially with four children still in sports and extra-curricular activities. She serves as president of the local Booster Club, and enjoys reading and scrapbooking. And, if time allows, she likes playing softball.
As an educator, Ginger values the advice and humor gleaned from her days at Ava schools –– it shows in her countenance and smile. From those experiences, she gained many words of wisdom. Like many of her mentors, she is patient, enthusiastic, and kind-hearted.
But most importantly, when she talks of her students, she smiles.
In years ahead, as Ava graduates continue to come together for class reunions and reminisce, many will remember Mrs. Gastineau as an encouraging and personable person – the teacher who took deep interest in students and made learning fun.
And, on that occasion, they too, will look back and smile.
Ginger is the daughter of Phyllis Bloomer, and Roger Bloomer, both of Ava.