The following article was produced in part by our partners at the Community Foundation of the Ozarks for the KSMU Making a Difference series. It features Blane Redus, an alum of the Ozarks Teacher Corps, which was established by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks with the overarching goal of developing teacher-leaders who will serve as catalysts for positive change. The Ozarks Teacher Corps is an important component of RSC's Missouri Ozarks Hub. You can view the original article here.
My name is Blane Redus. I’m an elementary special education teacher in the Marionville School District. Marionville is a small town of about 2,200 people in Lawrence County, Missouri.
The classrooms and hallways of this school have been my home for as long as I can remember. My parents were educators here. And I didn’t realize it back then, but rural teachers play a huge role in—and out of—the classroom. We’re basically a safety net of support, mentorship, and love in a place where we don’t have a lot of the resources you might find in a more populated area.
I got to watch from a young age how students would light up when they saw my mom and dad at Walmart or at sporting events. My parents always made time to visit with any student — whether they had them in class recently or 20 years ago. I can still remember being in the third grade and seeing my teacher at my basketball games.
Now that I’m a teacher, I try to attend Mighty Mite or basketball games whenever I get asked. I go to beauty pageants when I hear I have a student competing. I cheer for my students by name.
I want my students to feel the same excitement I did about seeing their teacher in the stands. I want them to feel special when I chat about their game at school the next morning.
In rural school districts like Marionville, sometimes teachers wear a lot of hats. In addition to teaching special education, I’m also a Basketball, Track, and Cross Country coach.
There’s one particular group of boys that have been some of my favorites to watch. I’m pretty sure they’re gonna be the next group of Comets vying for a state championship. I had them in first grade—and now, even as fourth graders, I have several of them bring me their football, basketball, and baseball schedules right after the coach hands them out. That’s because they know I will make it to at least a few of their games.
And I’m not the only teacher who tries to be a mentor. I get to teach alongside some of the greatest educators in our area, some of whom are my past teachers. They helped mold me into the teacher, and the person, I am today.
A school is only as great as the community that surrounds it. And a community is not a building, or a location; it’s friends and neighbors who choose to collectively raise generation after generation into better citizens of tomorrow.
In Marionville, this community personifies greatness. One example is at Christmas time, when our school has a Christmas Wish Tree in the office. Local businesses and churches step up to make sure every Christmas need is taken care of. Every child in need receives clothes and daily essentials—and also toys and fun things that help kids just be kids.
Another aspect is our town’s long-term care facility, Ozarks Methodist Manor. They open their doors for class after class of trick-or-treaters to visit their halls and get candy every Halloween. And you wanna hear something pretty amazing? On Grandparents Day, some of the residents have even bussed over to our school to be guest grandparents for the students who didn’t have relatives for the special occasion.
We wait all year for Friday Night Lights. When fall comes around, people start parking their trucks near the high school football field early in the morning for a prime spot at the Bill Redus Field, named after my great-grandfather, who was a principal here. Our athletes have a tremendous amount of support and everyone in Marionville truly does "Bleed Comet Blue." For some of our students, this community acts as the family that supports them, the caretakers that hold them accountable, and their biggest fans who encourage them toward success. We, the teachers, and the wider community, are the safety net for the kids in our school.
I think that’s why teaching in the town I grew up in and live in today is so important. This community provided me with so many friends that felt like family… elders who functioned basically as grandparents full of wisdom and love … and a network that I could lean on. Always. To be able to give back, even a little, to the school and community that gave me so much, is all I hope to do. Today, my wife Caitlyn and I both have the privilege to teach at Marionville Elementary. And soon, we will welcome a child of our own to walk the same halls we do…and experience what this community does so well: love its school and love its kids.
Making a Difference is produced in collaboration with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.