By her own account, Connie Trower bleeds orange and black. The Vocational Resource Educator at the Waynesville Career Center has been a part of the local school district for more than 25 years.
"I spent 10 years at Partridge Elementary on post (Fort Leonard Wood) teaching first grade," she said. "And then I did 10 years at second grade at East Elementary, and then I did three years at East in special education." Now in her second year at WCC, Trower has had a firsthand view of the changes, challenges, improvements and successes in the district for decades.
She's not only a staff member; Trower is also a graduate of the Waynesville School District, as is her father.
"He was a junior and then they opened the post when he was a senior. So he saw the influx, the difference in being a civilian school and then going to a military population," she explained.
Trower said during her father's final two years of high school, he watched his class size swell from 38 students to 87. In the decades since, the school district has continued to grow and expand. This year, more than 1,600 students are enrolled in grades nine through 12.
Trower said there is certainly a wide variety of students in the Waynesville school district.
"I remember when I was little, my parents telling me how fortunate I was to go to school here," she said. "There were so many different nationalities, and even though we lived in a small community, there was every nationality in our school. In high school, I remember walking down the hallways and there were kids in letterman jackets from Heidelberg (Germany)."
But class size isn't the only thing that has changed over the years. Trower said new buildings have been constructed and others closed or consolidated.
"We used to have two middle schools," she said. "We had Waynesville Middle School … and on post was Wood Middle School, which is now Wood Elementary School. That used to be a big rivalry. And then those two junior highs came together in high school, which was really fun."
Trower added another interesting fact that this year's high school teens might find surprising.
"They were the Wood Cadets and we were the Waynesville Tigers, and they were so cool because they had a prom and a homecoming, and we didn't," she said with a laugh. "So it was a big thing to be asked to their prom."
Moving forward, Trower said she has proudly watched the district evolve through the years.
"I think our district is very forward-thinking," she said. She added that she especially feels technology (ranging from iPads and laptops to online payment for lunches) is embraced in the schools.
Trower said that technology ranges from iPads and laptops to online payment for lunches.
"Everything is so much quicker," she said. "I remember it taking forever, counting the students' lunch money. I would end up digging in my purse to find a quarter just to get the total to come out right."
Trower also proudly pointed to the district's teacher mentoring program, something she said helps both teachers and their students.
"The new teachers, they have a full week before the other teachers start," she said. "They're given a mentor teacher that works with them through the year that spends time with them and trains them. I think that's a big advantage.
"I've heard many people say that they do feel our district is forward-thinking and does many progressive things," Trower added. "I think our district does have a good reputation."
The veteran faculty member also spoke about the robust AmeriCorps volunteer program in the school district, the hands-on options offered at the Career Center and the wide variety of extracurricular activities and events offered throughout the district.
"I've just always been proud of our district," she said with a smile. "I've always been proud to work for the district."