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April 10, 2015
By Jennifer Kirk, alumni magazine intern
This story is featured in the spring 2015 edition of the Northwest Alumni Magazine. To view the magazine in its entirety online, click here.
Few people have the opportunity to return to work at the school they attended as a child, but David Weichinger '75, '78 has come full circle by joining the teaching staff at Horace Mann Laboratory School.
Weichinger returned to Horace Mann last fall as the school's fifth- and sixth-grade teacher.
"Not many people have the opportunity to return to the school they attended as a kid to teach," Weichinger said. "I was excited to learn of the opening late in the summer and even more excited to be asked to accept the position."
Weichinger began his schooling at Horace Mann in 1956 as a preschooler in Kate McKee's class. His father, Dr. Theodore Weichinger, taught high school courses at Horace Mann until the high school closed in 1960. Weichinger and his father often walked to and from school together, sometimes walking home together to have lunch.
Dr. Weichinger later taught physics at Northwest while David continued his education at the University.
"When I was in college, I had my dad for a physics class," Weichinger said. "I remember on the first day when he was reading the roll, he got to my name and looked straight at me and asked, ‘Are we related? We have the same last name.' I quickly replied, ‘You'll have to ask my dad.' Both of us kept straight faces, and I'm sure some of the members of the class never did figure it out."
During his first year of college, Weichinger wanted to be a pharmacist.
"My mother and father were teachers," Weichinger said. "I wanted to do something different."
He soon changed his major to music, but it wasn't long before he would discover what he was destined to do. After his sophomore year at Northwest, Weichinger spent the summer in Omaha, Neb., as a counselor at a Boy Scout camp. He believes it was the turning point in his life that led him to choose elementary education. Weichinger enjoyed working with kids who came to him with problems and teaching them different skills.
"They must have trusted me, as they came to me to share their problems and fears during the week," Weichinger said.
He returned to Northwest as a junior and changed his major, with help from Dr. Dean Savage.
Weichinger began his career as a fourth-grade teacher at Clarksdale Elementary School in Maysville, Mo. Then, in 1976, he returned to Maryville to teach fifth grade at Washington Middle School.
Weichinger says he only planned to stay in Maryville a few years and move on. But he continued to advance in the Maryville R-II School District and built a career there.
In 1986, he became a science teacher at the middle school. In 1994, he was named assistant principal at Eugene Field Elementary in Maryville and became head principal a year later. Weichinger retired from the elementary school in 2004, and became the Nodaway County director for Community Service in Maryville until 2011.
When Weichinger was a Northwest student, education courses were in Colden Hall, unlike they are today in Everett Brown Education Hall alongside Horace Mann students. Northwest students today have more chances to interact with elementary school kids on a regular basis, Weichinger says.
"Horace Mann has always had a dual purpose to educate the smalls and talls," Weichinger said. "It is very helpful for students entering education to have the opportunity to observe early in their college studies."
The school building has changed, too, since he was a student there, Weichinger says. The auditorium where Horace Mann students once staged performances was turned into a library and then remodeled in 2012 to become the Phyllis and Richard Leet Center for Children and Families, serving Horace Mann's preschool population. Additionally, the junior high and high school no longer occupies the second floor, which is now used for Northwest classes and houses faculty offices.
"The main changes are in the physical look of the building," Weichinger said. "It has been well-maintained and updated to accommodate the changes in technology. This is a great place to return to the profession I love."
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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