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Bobbi Sinnett says goodbye to teaching after 39 years

Bobbi Sinnett stands among just a few of the projects for this year's Culture Fair, an event she has nurtured for 38 years. She has been a sixth-grade teacher for close to 40 years and says she loves her job as much as when she began. She will retire in June. Photo by Meg Heaton

Bobbi Sinnett has been a part of middle school education since Hudson's first middle school opened 39 years ago. She has taught sixth grade the entire time.

She was hired by the newly appointed middle school principal Bill Hickox to replace him. She was just out of college. "In those years, you taught everything -- all the subjects. Middle school was a new concept and it was exciting to be part of something so groundbreaking."

Sinnett said they just kept working with the concept, trying new things as they came up and building on their success. She points with pride to the fact that the Hudson Middle School has twice been named a Wisconsin "Middle School of Excellence," in recent years, all while the enrollment has grown and space has diminished.

Sinnett said she loves sixth-grade students and estimates that she has taught approximately 4,000 of them over the years. What's so special about sixth grade?

"They are always honest with you and so full of life. It is easy to misunderstand the energy of a 12-year-old but it is always worth the effort. They are old enough to know right from wrong but still young enough to be eager to learn. Coming in this morning, I thought about how I will miss this excitement, day after day. Learning with them is so fun. The energy is always high in the classroom. I will miss that."

Sinnett went from teaching all subjects when she began her career to teaching world studies exclusively. It is fortunate that the subject is near and dear to her heart. She and her husband Marshall have always loved to travel, having visited some 40 countries on four continents. She approaches her vacations more like lesson plans than a chance to sit back and relax.

"I have always believed that a vacation is a chance to learn about other cultures and how other people live. Traveling is the best way to learn. Sharing actual experiences is the key to understanding and I love bringing that back to my kids. I tell them I have never been anywhere I didn't like."

The Hudson Middle School Culture Fair has been Sinnett's pet project for 38 years. It was an experiment in integrated learning long before the concept became popular. The fair features food, music, art, and the economics of countries around the world. "The kids sell the food and set their own prices. That touches on math. They do research and write reports -- that's language arts and so on. That was a whole new idea back in the 1970s when we started in the big gym when the school was downtown. People from town came and filled the place. And it just kept growing."

Sinnett is also a big believer in service projects and what they teach her students about their community and themselves. For a number of years, her class would go Christmas caroling at Buena Vista and Croixview and to shut-ins around the neighborhood. For several years, her students opted to forgo a holiday gift exchange to provide gifts for local children and families in need of some assistance. She and her husband, both avid skiers, even provided ski lessons for her students.

Her students' reach went beyond Hudson as well working with the Daybreak Rotary to raise money to fund a school in Nepal and provide tuition for several students a year. They also sent books to Africa and participated in iEARN (International Education and Resource Network),a global network that connects teachers and students through the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that make a difference in the world.

"We had a teddy bear exchange with a school in Lithuania. The students here took the bear home and kept a diary of their day and then we sent that back with the bear and they did the same. It was a wonderful way to learn about each other's lives."

@sub:A fond farewell

@t:Leaving Hudson Middle School and what she called her incredible career will not be easy for Sinnett. She gets emotional just thinking about it. She will miss almost everything about it with the exception of the early morning hours.

"The teachers and people I have worked with over the year are truly amazing and I will miss seeing them and my students of course, but also their families -- their siblings and their kids. In some cases I have taught the third generation of a family. I've been to their graduations, weddings, even to hear one of my students who became a priest say Mass in Stillwater. There is nothing better than when they come back and tell me what they are doing with their life. That is just the best."

When asked, Sinnett did have some advice, first and foremost for her students. "Always believe in yourself, respect yourself and others and be honest. And remember to enjoy your life all along the way. It goes by very fast.

As for parents, "Always be an advocate for your child -- no matter what. Teach them to like and respect themselves and others, and to be responsible. But also encourage them to spread their wings. That's our job -- to prepare them to fly away."

And for teachers just embarking on the job she loves, "Teach from your heart. It is the most important thing you can do for your students. They will sense it and feel good about themselves because you care about them. As teachers we don't just teach them about subjects and information but also good organizational skills, about a good work ethic and about setting goals. You teach them those things and to believe in themselves and there is no limit to what they will accomplish."

Sinnett said she will go from teaching lots of children, down to two -- her daughter Alicia's family, grandchildren Bennett and Sophia. She admits it will be a change of pace and a slower life, but then she has a career full of memories to fill any idle hours.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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