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Student, teachers remember first years at Hamilton High School

Nolde was first student, then returned to teach

Dec. 31, 2012

Hamilton High School (HHS) has changed and grown over the years, but one thing that has stayed the same are the deep roots and sense of community that fill the halls. To commemorate the school's 50th anniversary, two former teachers who were present for the school's inception share their memories of Hamilton High.

Don Edmunds had been a math teacher for only two years, one year in New Glarus, one year in Savanna, Ill., before moving to Sussex with his wife to teach at Hamilton High School. Former colleague and New Glarus superintendent Norm Fries told Edmunds about the job after he accepted a position with the newly formed school district.

A new start

As a recent master's graduate, "I thought that was a good idea to begin at a whole new school," said Edmunds. "I thought it would be a great experience, and it was."

Edmunds began at the new school teaching algebra, pre-algebra, geometry and advanced algebra in 1962, the year the school opened. He was one of two teachers who taught math full time. The assistant principal filled in teaching math as needed.

That first year, the school consisted of only freshman and sophomore students who came from other schools around the area including Lisbon, Menomonee falls, Butler and West Bend. Edmunds recalls that over the next two years, the school added junior and senior classes. Each of Edmunds' own four children sat through his math class. Looking back on it, he said that there was never any problem with having his kids as students.

Within the first couple of years, Edmunds recalls that extracurricular activities began to become an important part of the school, especially sports. "It began to grow and get better and kids were able to begin younger and moved into the (athletic) program," he said. The high school's sports teams were important to Edmunds who coached freshman JV golf, served as the athletic director for five years and who ran the game clock during those early years. As part of the math team, Edmunds and his students won second place in the state conference during his reign at HHS.

"I think it's important that as part of the school, it is important to be part of the community as well. That's why I've always lived in the district," he said. Additionally, "it was important to me to be part of the community as well as the school." Edmunds has been a Sussex Lion for more than 40 years and a member of United Methodist since 1965.

Edmunds retired from HHS in 1995 after 33 years of teaching.

Thinking back on why he has stayed in the community for so many years, "I like the area, I like the kids. We got along well. I just liked the school and we were very satisfied here," Edmunds said of him and his wife.

Student to teacher

Joanne Nolde began her freshman year of high school at HHS in 1962 after attending St. James.

"It was pretty exciting because everything was brand new," she recalls. As the charter students, "we did everything," from picking the school's mascot and colors to forming various clubs including the Chargerettes which she had been a part of.

In class, "We had wonderful teachers who worked hard to get things going and to make it special," Nolde said.

During her years at HHS, Nolde recalled that "there was a real need for teachers." So, she joined Future Teachers of America and eventually became the club's president. She finished high school with the first HHS graduating class and went on to college to become an English teacher. After graduation, Nolde's mom mentioned that HHS was hiring an English teacher. So, she called her uncle Harold Delsosse who was an industrial arts teacher at HHS at the time. He got her in touch with those in charge of hiring, and had an interview the very next day.

"I didn't even know if they hired Hamilton graduates," Nolde laughed. In 1971, she began teaching alongside many of her former teachers.

It took a bit of time to call her former teachers by their first names, and "I had no idea how they'd feel about me as a colleague." However, just like when she was a student, the teachers warmly welcomed her. "It couldn't have been more positive." She describes the faculty as a close-knit group of people.

As a teacher, Nolde may have been a bit demanding of her students at times, but "I think I was fair and I loved my students," she said. In particular, the Shakespeare segment was her favorite and a favorite of the students. Though the curriculum was challenging, the kids loved it "because I had them involved in it" and helped them work at understanding the texts.

During her 36 years as a communication arts teacher at HHS, Nolde ended up teaching her youngest four siblings, and all seven of her other siblings graduated from HHS. "It turned out to be a really good experience," she said. Nolde also taught one of her nieces. "It was an unbelievable experience for us both."

Just like Edmunds, Nolde was active with HHS beyond school hours. She volunteered with the Forensics team and helped with the girls' volleyball team. She was also the English department chair for many years. "All young teachers were put to work," she laughed. "I spent most of my life there and I loved it."

Though Nolde was very busy, "(HHS) was a wonderful place to be."

Because HHS is such a tight-knit group, "the school is extremely integral to what goes on in the community," as far as sports, art and theater. Looking back she never thought the school would have a fine arts center and in the future, "I want the theater to be used even more."

In her retirement Nolde still sees many of her former colleagues as a member of HOTS, a group of retired HHS teachers who meet about once a month. She said that she runs into former students from time to time as well. "It just brings back all kinds of wonderful memories."

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