Advice and Scholarships Invaluable to Future Teachers
February 10, 2012, was a bittersweet day for Gary Waitschies. On this day five years ago, his wife of 35 years lost her battle with cancer.
But on this day Gary found himself surrounded by youth and hope and big dreams at a coffee shop in Greeley, Colo.
Gary came to town to meet some of the teaching students who have received scholarships from the fund he set up in honor of his late wife Linda, a passionate teacher and UNC alumna.
“Linda was one of the most passionate teachers I’ve ever seen,” Gary said to three juniors majoring in elementary education and planning to teach primary grades, Alyssa Bartle, Katy Burkhart and Lauren Hepp.
They spent more than an hour getting to know each other and Gary, also a former teacher, shared some tips about the first week of teaching in your own classroom.
“For the first two weeks they have no idea of your expectations,” Gary said. “You have to make those clear or you’ll be battling that all year. Practice having them line up at the door, walk quietly in the halls, and follow the fire drill routine. Don’t’ worry about taking the time to make them practice over and over because you won’t be spending time on these things again all year.”
Three sets of eyes are riveted on Gary. His words of advice are at least as valuable as the scholarship dollars the young women are receiving from the Gary & Linda Waitschies Scholarship Fund.
In addition to the scholarship, Lauren, Katy and Alyssa all have student loans and admit they would not be at UNC without financial aid. But the scholarships mean the most to them.
“It makes me feel like someone else believes in me,” Lauren said.
“Yes, it gives us a different way to believe in ourselves,” Alyssa said. “Somebody gave me the chance to go to college. I’m going to do my best to do something great with that.”
“I believe I will make a difference,” Katy said. And the women shared their aspirations as teachers, one focused on reading, like Linda, and all really hoping to make a difference in a child’s life.
The Waitschies originally had included UNC, and Gary’s alma mater Mizzou, in their estate planning, which would activate endowed scholarships after both of their passing. But a few years ago, Gary wondered why he was waiting to fulfill Linda’s dreams of helping teaching students at UNC. He decided to start funding a scholarship that would help students today, like Lauren, Alyssa and Katy.
“It really felt right when I established the scholarship,” he said. “I derive so much pleasure just from writing the checks.”
Gary himself wouldn’t have made it through college without scholarship assistance. “I understand that private support is absolutely essential.”
Gary and Linda felt that their undergraduate educations were so essential to whom they became, and that those universities meant so much to them, “not giving back would not feel right.
“And now you have reinforced for me that what Linda and I have done is the right thing,” Gary said to the students. “You are doing exactly what Linda would have wanted you to do.”