Math teacher turning to greener pastures Shriver retiring after 31 years WEST COUNTY

June 17, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

For Ron Shriver, going out to pasture isn't so bad.

One of four sons of a West Virginia coal miner, he grew up on a farm, married a farm girl and now lives on a farm near Westminster.

So it should surprise no one that Mr. Shriver, 56, will be heading out to run a 300-acre farm he owns in Wisconsin after he retires tomorrow from 31 years of teaching at Glenelg High School.

A farm boy of 25 probably didn't seem out of place back in 1962 in Glenelg, when the Clarksburg, W.Va., native began teaching physics at the school. A year later he switched to mathematics and taught some of the first calculus courses at the school.

"It was more agricultural then. When I first started teaching, quite a few of your students were dairy farmers. Now they ride horses and fox-hunt," Mr. Shriver said.

He said he became interested in teaching math when he was a student.

"I can remember when I was in high school, and the teacher would be explaining math problems," he said. "I would always think, 'I can explain it better than that.' "

Part of the difficulty in teaching math is reaching students who don't easily think in mathematical terms, he said.

"Most math teachers have a tendency to think abstractly, and many students need a more concrete model" or practical application to help them understand the subject, he said.

Ivan Sutton, who has been teaching chemistry at Glenelg since Mr. Shriver arrived, said, "He's a knowledgeable person who certainly knew how to apply math and get kids interested in math."

While someone else will be teaching math at Glenelg next year, principal Jim McGregor said he isn't sure how he can replace Mr. Shriver.

"He was a very good person, who not only was an extremely competent teacher, but one that certainly set high standards for his students," Mr. McGregor said. "My guess is that he probably ended up getting more out of his students than he thought they were capable of.

"He's the classic example of a teacher where kids will come back from college and say, 'Boy, I'm glad I had Mr. Shriver when I was here . . . man, he's tough, but what he did was the right thing.' That's probably the highest compliment you can pay a teacher."

Mr. Shriver credited his father, Simon, with encouraging him to go into teaching.

"My dad always wanted me to be a teacher. He had a tremendous respect for teachers," he said.

That respect came when Simon Shriver had to quit school in the eighth grade to support his family after his own father was killed by a train. Instead of attending school, Simon Shriver, who died three years ago, had to work in a coal mine.

Ron Shriver said he was partly attracted to Glenelg by its rural setting, but mostly by one of its residents, Mary Grace Mullinix, whom he married.

He and his wife have two children, Emily 29, and Brett, 26, both computer engineers.

Although he will miss intellectual discussions with his colleagues in the math department, he says, "I think I've taught long enough, and I have a lot of things I want to do."

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