Cameron leaves 'Battle of Books' legacy
You might say Teresa Cameron loves her "job." The Hudson Middle School English teacher has taught in the Hudson School District for her entire 36 year career. She retires this year, leaving a wonderful legacy in the district for younger teachers to emulate.
Cameron, a native of Rice Lake, graduated from high school in 1973.
"It was a time when lots of us girls were talking about what we were going to do," said Cameron. "Teaching was one of the popular careers back then." The decision to pursue teaching is attributed to her friend Lynn, who encouraged Cameron to take a class on learning disabilities taught at the local UW-campus.
"It was a whole new field back then," said Cameron. The two friends went through the class together, started college together and both became teachers. Her degree was in elementary education with a minor in English.
"When it came time to pick a minor, I was basically done," said Cameron, who had taken nearly every level English course offered. "I don't think I was passionate about English until I went to college. I love the history included at the college level literature classes. You have to learn the background behind the writings."
After, two years, Cameron transferred to the Eau Claire campus.
"I was 21, one of those four year graduates," said Cameron who applied at Hudson and was hired right out of college. Then she was Miss Vanda, her old nameplate revealed as she started packing up her room.
For the entire 36 years, Cameron has taught in the middle school. Originally hired by Bill Hickox she taught seventh grade for her first two years. Hudson had started the middle school concept just two years before Cameron arrived.
She has watched it develop and grow. When she began team teaching sixth grade with Bobbi Sinnett, there were six sixth-grade teachers, then it jumped to eight and today there are over 15.
"I taught English to both classes, Bobbi taught social studies to both. We were self-contained. We taught everything; math, science and reading."
It was while Cameron was teaching sixth grade, which she did for 28 years, that she completed her master's at UW-River Falls. She turned to her mentor, reading specialist Ethel Johnson, when she needed a project to do as part of her degree work.
So it was that in 1990 the Battle of the Books was born.
"The idea was to have a variety of books at many levels and interests," said Cameron. "Students participated at advisor, house and school level competitions. The idea was that a team would read all the books so they could answer the questions. It was just a way to motivate students to read." Battle of the Books became a highlight and still remains a part of the sixth grade curriculum even though Cameron herself returned to teaching seventh-grade English six years ago.
"It is a great way to end my career," said Cameron. "Coming back to the grade level and class I was originally hired to teach."
Retirement for Cameron means spending more time with her family, including her 91-year-old mother. She is working on a little book about her mother's genealogy to tell her mother's life story. Travel and hiking and volunteering are other goals.
"National Parks are one of our favorite places to visit," said Cameron. "I have planned all along to do some tutoring and substitute teaching just because I enjoy what I do."
"The years just flew by," said Cameron. "I love school. I love all the aspects of school and I love to go to school. I have the equivalent of a second master's. We are people who love to learn."
Her advice to parents and students centers around organization.
"Learning to organize is so important," said Cameron. "I teach it every day. I feel like I am teaching not only for today but for the future. I talk to them about eighth grade and high school and that you need to be an independent learner, because you have to be prepared and all these basic skills will make you successful in the end. It is all about the whole person, the whole child and the whole student."
"I just think I am very grateful to have wonderful fellow teachers, and administrators to work with," said Cameron. "The students are our future. It is interesting to find out where their journeys have taken them."
Miss Vanda met her husband Howard, while he was in law school, because he was a friend of her brother. They decided to stay in the Hudson community.
"It was a good choice," said Cameron. Their daughter, Kat, is following in her mother's footsteps. She serves on a Chancellor's Committee at UW-Madison which distributes books to students on campus.
"Reading to your children and modeling it is very important," said Cameron, whose passion for reading is a gift she hopes has been passed along to her students over the years.