June 9, 2005: Headlines: COS - Lesotho: Muscatine Journal: Linda Sliefert began her career as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching a willing and attentive class in the small South African country of Lesotho

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Lesotho: Peace Corps Lesotho : The Peace Corps in Lesotho: June 9, 2005: Headlines: COS - Lesotho: Muscatine Journal: Linda Sliefert began her career as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching a willing and attentive class in the small South African country of Lesotho

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Linda Sliefert began her career as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching a willing and attentive class in the small South African country of Lesotho

Linda Sliefert began her career as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching a willing and attentive class in the small South African country of Lesotho

Linda Sliefert began her career as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching a willing and attentive class in the small South African country of Lesotho

From Africa to Muscatine to retirement: Muscatine teacher's far-reaching journey takes her into retirement after 31 years
By Cynthia Beaudette of the Muscatine Journal

MUSCATINE, Iowa - As she enters her first summer of retirement from the Muscatine Community School District, Linda Sliefert looks back on a career studded with lessons that went beyond textbooks.

Sliefert, who began teaching in Muscatine in 1974, is retiring from West Middle School, where she taught science to seventh- and eighth-grade students. Sliefert, 57, said she always found this age group delightful.

"There's less apathy among students that age. They always want to know why," she said. "They're exciting to work with."

Sliefert began her career teaching a willing and attentive class in the small South African country of Lesotho. She was looking forward to launching her career and finding some adventure in the early 1970s after she was graduated from the University of Northern Iowa.

She found both serving with the Peace Corps, teaching science in a Catholic girls' school during the era of Apartheid.

With the enactment of Apartheid laws in 1948, racial discrimination touched every aspect of social life and sanctioned white-only jobs. Non-compliance was dealt with harshly.

"Life was extremely restricted there," said Sliefert. "There were guards at the border so you couldn't cross into North Africa."

And her presence was not always appreciated.

"At that time, black people weren't supposed to go to school," she said.

The living conditions were also difficult.

"It was like camping out 24 hours a day," said Sliefert, who recalls using kerosene lamps and heaters. "We're privileged to live in the United States. We don't understand the daily struggle people in some countries face."

Through the years, Sliefert endeavored to help students appreciate the value of an education.

One of the highlights of her career is hearing former students say they remember what they learned in her class.

"That's the icing on the cake," she said. "To know I reached one of them."

After teaching hundreds of students, Sliefert realizes how challenging teaching can be. She leaves her profession in the midst of the effects from the No Child Left Behind federal legislation and is concerned about its ramifications. The legislation requires schools to bring all students to a level of proficiency in basic skills by the school year 2013-14.

"The premise that no child should be left behind is fine," said Sliefert. "But the law needs to recognize what real life is about. No matter how hard you try, some kids will not be able to read."

Sliefert, who later completed her master's of science in education at the University of Iowa, has witnessed several factors that can impede a student's overall progress. Some children struggle with specific learning disabilities, others do not speak English as a primary language and a rising number of children are coping with significant social stresses.

She says one of the most disturbing social trends she's witnessed is the increase of divorce and single-parent homes.

Even if couples can't solve the problems that lead to divorce, Sliefert said parents need to be supportive and do whatever they can to make it easier for the child.

"Everything that happens in the home affects the kids at school," said Sliefert. "The kids ought to come first."

One aspect of family life that changed has been an assignment of chores or household duties, she said.

"When I began teaching in 1974 and into the 1980s, kids would tell me they took care of their pets, made their beds, took out the trash," said Sliefert.

During the 1990s, the tradition of chores changed, she said.

Sliefert said children need to be supervised as they learn to carry out responsibilities and many single parents don't have time.

"Single parents often have to work more hours to keep their families going," she said.

When Sliefert was a child, her mother was home, a circumstance she now sees as a privilege. As she attended school in Storm Lake, she was also guided by her teachers, two of whom influenced her to make an early decision about her future. " ... both teachers imparted such a love of science and biology to me."

When she came to Musca-tine to teach, Sliefert said she didn't expect to spend more than a few years here. As she retires, she intends to visit her parents in Storm Lake, but continue living in Muscatine.

"I found out the people here are wonderful," she said.

Contact Cynthia Beaudette at: 563-263-2331 Ext. 323 or cynthia.beaudette@muscatinejournal.com

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Story Source: Muscatine Journal

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