Teacher helped introduce technology to Russellville schools

Editor’s note: This is the first in a five-part series of articles honoring retired educators for Teacher Appreciation Week.

During her senior year at Eugene High School, Maribeth Lupardus pondered two potential career paths — pursuit of a degree in music education or becoming a business teacher.

Choosing the latter, she went on to teach high school business classes, introducing scores of young students to the new and developing age of desktop computing.

“After I graduated from high school in 1978, I enrolled at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas,” she recalled. “I decided to earn my business education degree since I planned on teaching, but also realized that I would have something to fall back upon in case I didn’t like being in education.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business education in 1982, she moved back to the Jefferson City area and worked briefly for an attorney’s office. Although she found enjoyment in this job, her medical needs necessitated she find other employment.

“I have been diagnosed with diabetes since I was 16, and the job didn’t offer insurance,” she said. “At that point, I applied for and was hired by the state at the Board of Registration for Healing Arts. One of my co-workers there told me that the business teacher in Russellville was retiring, so I called and spoke with the Superintendent Jack Brumley about the job.”

Her career in education at Russellville High School began in late summer of 1985, instructing a number of business-related courses such as shorthand, accounting, typing and a two-hour block of vocational instruction intended to prepare juniors and seniors for work in an office environment.

While working with other faculty members, she soon met and began dating David Russell, the school’s industrial arts teacher. The couple married in December 1986 and during the next few years became parents to three children — Megan, Morgan and Jordan, all of whom graduated from Russellville.

Early in her teaching days at Russellville, Russell’s classroom was equipped with a couple of Apple IIe (released in 1983) and IBM PCjr (released in 1984) computers she and the students used during an office class. She soon worked to upgrade the school’s computer lab, allowing a basic programming course to be added to the course offerings.

“Back then, everything we were doing on the computers was in DOS and used the big floppy disks,” she recalled. “I was also able to write a grant for the first computer lab, which came several years later. That was important because this was really the time when desktop computers were growing in popularity and use.”

She continued, “The computers we purchased through the grant arrived two weeks before the start of the new school year, and I worked many hours setting everything up. That first year, we used them in the two-hour office practice class. all so new that I learned the software along with the class, and that included such programs as the DOS version of Word Perfect and Lotus 1-2-3.”

Russell noted when Microsoft Windows was first released to the public in the 1990s, she acquired it through a grant from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

A second business teacher was eventually hired at Russellville, allowing the administration to provide additional business courses. However, after having taught at Russellville for 11 years, Russell made the decision to leave at the end of the 1996 school year to accept a position with Central Bank in Jefferson City.

“It was a tough decision, but David and I were raising three children on Missouri teacher salaries, and the bank job paid a little more,” she said. “I became a technical trainer for the bank and also served as their Microsoft Office specialist.”

Her duties included teaching classes for bank employees on the use and implementation of technology. Additionally, she worked with departments within the bank to review their various projects and identify which applications (database, spreadsheets, etc.) might be the best fit for what they wanted to accomplish.

Because of her duties, she was able to attend many Microsoft courses and other professional development opportunities. Her dedication and professional knowledge earned her recognition at the bank as Employee of the Year.

“Someone told me the part-time technology coordinator at Russellville High School was leaving, so I called the superintendent because there was another bank employee who I believed might be good for the job,” she said. “The superintendent asked me if I might consider coming back, and I was hired as their technology coordinator in 2004.”

For a short time, she taught web design classes in addition to an eighth-grade computer literacy programme. But her responsibilities soon transitioned to a full-time position of overseeing the network, servers, desktop computers and printers for the elementary school, middle school and high school.

She eventually arrived at a critical juncture in her career, acknowledging technology was rapidly evolving and was no longer wishing to fulfill the role of help desk and network administrator for the district. With Missouri’s “Rule of 80” in place for retiring teachers, she retired in 2015 with 22 in-district years of teaching to her credit.

Russell recognizes her early teaching career represents a transformational period of change in desktop computing. Teaching such technologies was not without certain challenges, but provided her with many rewarding moments.

“The only computer class that I ever had in college was punch card basic programming … and that is ancient compared to what we use now,” she said. “Everything I taught to students regarding computers in later years, I had to learn along the way.”

She concluded, “But I really loved teaching, and my incentive came from knowing that I helped impart the important skills and knowledge that helped many of my students in later years, whether they went on to college or went to work.”

Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.

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