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Enjoy stories and details from our former teachers

-  Some teachers met at BMS and got married - they include, David and Julia (Hartzler) Alleman, Lee and LaVerne (Zehr) Yoder, James and Marian (Yoder) Payne, Frank and Ann (Yoder) Brennaman, J. Marvin and Maragaret (Custer) Zook, and Leon and Lynda (Byler) Miller. 
-  Teachers felt working at BMS was a ministry because they knew they were not going to "get rich" working at the school, according to Miss Brenda Kauffman
-  Men were able to complete their 1-W service at BMS.  Some of those men included Earl Delp, Robert Hostetler, Ray French, Nelson Martin, Ray Horst, and Ronald David
-  Many times the new teachers were single and young, just out of college.  They would move to the area and needed a place to live.  Two sisters, Linnie and Mary Peachey, would rent an apartment to the new lady teachers. 
-  Long ago, male teachers were paid more than female teachers and married men received a higher salary then single men.

From Miss Laura Weaver:  I thank God that my first two years of teaching (1955-57) occurred in a school and a community that became “home” for me.  On one level, home is the people I associate with in Evansville, Indiana, where I've lived for 38 years.  But on a deeper level, home consists of pieces from each place I've lived during my 86 years: Lancaster PA, Harrisonburg VA, Belleville  PA,  Bluffton OH, Lawrence KS, Springfield MO, Hays KS, and Evansville IN.  All those places form a whole—a mosaic.  BMS and Big Valley constitute a key piece of that mosaic.

When I began teaching at BMS in 1955, I was a 23-year-old who had just graduated from Eastern Mennonite College (now University).  I enjoyed teaching English (composition and literature) and serving as adviser for the school paper, BMS News and Views (with Leonard Byler, editor) and the yearbook, Kish-O-Vale (with J. Lorne Peachey, editor).  I also enjoyed other activities: the senior trip to New York, concerts in Lewistown, evenings in Nannie Peachey's home, where we gathered to listen to recordings of Shakespeare's plays and to discuss creative writing done by students.  Outside of the classroom I was often invited into students' homes, especially those of Ellie Hartzler and Lena and Bennett Byler.  Also, I taught a Sunday School class at the Allensville Mennonite Church. In Big Valley I felt that I was part of the lives of the students and their families—not only academically but also socially and religiously.

Through the years I've been in contact with former students, now friends and peers.  When my mother moved to Aaronsburg, PA, and I visited her there, I sometimes went to Belleville to see people still living there.  Joanne and Leroy Kauffman often arranged these get-togethers.  Fifty years after my two years at BMS I was honored to be invited to attend the class reunions of the classes of 1956-1957 (combined), 1958, and 1959.  Although I couldn't attend in 2009, I was able to attend in 2007 and 2008.  In 2008 I was invited by Ms. Ann Kanagy, Superintendent of BMS at that time, to present an honorary diploma to Eugene Glick.  I was honored to do so.

On the occasion of this Teachers' Reunion, when I wish I could return to BMS and Big Valley, I remember an episode shortly after I had left Belleville.  I went back, and, at the beginning of my visit, placed a phone call at a public phone.  When I gave the number, the operator, without my having given my name, recognized my voice and said, “Laura, are you back?”  Glad to be recognized, I was happy to be back then, and I'm happy to return now in memory.

From Dr. Lee M. Yoder   I graduated from BMS in June, 1958.  I stayed out of school for a year following graduation and became the janitor of BMS.  This began in August of 1958, when Ms. LaVerne Zehr arrived at BMS to teach grades 2 and 3 for the 1958-1959 school year.  She came to Belleville on the day of my mother’s funeral, August 29, 1958, at Locust Grove Church.  Her parents, Pastor Elias M. and Martha W. Zehr brought LaVerne to Belleville from Lowville, NY.  She had completed two years at EMU and began teaching at BMS.

In 1958, the old Elementary School, a short distance from the high school building, was still being used.  I soon learned when Ms. Zehr had a planning period, and so I went to her building at that time to check the coal furnace fire.  We met in the lower level of the building, until the students started to peek in through the windows above ground.

Being the janitor of the school paid $100 per month, but the benefits were outstanding!  We began dating that year, until I left for EMU in the fall of 1959.  We were married on August 13, 1960, in Lowville, New York, by her Father and the message was by Erie H. Renno.  A special quartet, Ray French, Urban Byler, Jason Byler and George Yoder, sang at our wedding, and Ray sang the beautiful song, “The Lord’s Prayer”.

LaVerne’s students to this day remember her teaching grades 2 and 3.  In her second year of teaching, 1959-1960, she moved to the new elementary building where it is today.  Since her father was a pastor in the Conservative Mennonite Conference in Lowville, NY, her parents were acquainted with the pastors at Locust Grove, including Louis and Sadie Peachey, John B. and Sallie Zook and Emanuel and Elsie Peachey.  This gave her parents easy access to check out my references as our dating continued.




From Mrs. Kari Swigart  I wasn't looking for a teaching job in the mid 80's, but the Lord had other plans. Between Stan Miller talking to me about enrolling my then toddlers in BMS, Donna Glenney testifying about her teaching experience and Darlene Byler preparing to take maternity leave, God pulled, pushed and prodded me onto a path that God alone was designing.

BMS was a big part of the Swigart family from 1988-2009.  As many of you know, that involvement draws in grandparents and friends as well.  Now in 2016 I am a grandmother to two and one half grandchildren, the next due in August.  When my husband Steve and I were asked, "Why do you send your kids to BMS?", the answer was, "Because God led us to do it".  Now, six and a half years after our youngest graduated from BMS, that is still my answer.

Because of BMS:  When issues would pop up, I could sit face to face with an administrator or board member who truly cared about my concerns. When 9/11 happened on a September school morning, as a teacher, I drew my preschoolers close to pray and was assured as a mother knowing my own 3 children were cared and prayed for. I knew too that they were praying for our world at that moment. When Y2K and the year 2000 loomed, over and over we heard, God is in control. Amen!

Because of BMS:  I clearly heard the Lord speak into my life about pastoral ministry. I left BMS as an educator in 2004.  I left with great memories and a call to pastoral ministry. I have served as a United Methodist pastor for the last 15 years. That original path to BMS led me to seminary and to the opportunity to serve the Lord as a pastor. God is in control!

Because of BMS: Steve and I were privileged to watch all three of our children graduate from college. Kate from Lock Haven, Dan from Eastern Mennonite University, and Nathan from Penn State, University Park . All are amazing adults too! Kate is working in human resources at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital, Dan is a police officer in Lancaster County, and Nathan works for the federal government in the USDA Animal and Plant Health services in Columbus, Ohio. Without BMS to launch them, none of that would be possible. Considering all three of our kids were with their teachers from preschool through graduation at BMS, nine months out of the year, 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, as parents we better be sure they are in the place God wants them to learn and to be influenced. God is in control!

Because of BMS:  My teacher colleagues were and are counted among my best friends.  I observe with joy the progress BMS is making while still treasuring the history of the school and more importantly seeking God at every turn. God is in control! It is only after we step faithfully onto the path God has laid out that we truly discover that truth and not only are we better for that, but generations of Christian disciples to come are impacted for the Kingdom.

God, indeed, is in control! Praise be to God!

Mr. Larry and RaeDella (Alderfer) Wenger were teachers at BMS from in the late 50's to early 60's.  Mr. Wenger taught Math and Science in the high school from 1958-1962 and Mrs. Wenger taught 4th and 5th grade from 1959-1962.  Mr. Wenger also drove bus to supplement their income.  Mrs. Wenger recalled that one year she taught 32 students - 20 students from one class and 12 from another.  Her final year at BMS, she taught just 4th grade. 

Mrs. Wenger recalls that the elementary school did not have a library so each Saturday morning when her and Mr. Wenger traveled to Lewistown for groceries, they would stop at the library to borrow books for her students for the upcoming week. 

Mrs. Wenger mentioned that the BMS community and their Allensville Mennonite Church family treated them very well.  When the couple lived in a small trailer on the farm of Paul Renno, she recalls buying milk and eggs from the family for a very inexpensive price.  Mrs. Wenger also remembers a BMS family giving them deer meat (from a deer that one of her students harvested) along with a recipe on how to prepare it.  She mentioned having good memories of people from their church like Ronald and Velma Peachey.

In 1962 the Wengers moved from Belleville to Lancaster and Mr. Wenger began to teach at Lancaster Mennonite High School where he continued to do so for 33 years.  Mrs. Wenger spent a lot of time at their home raising their 4 children and then taught students with special needs for 17 years.

The Wengers are still cherished by their former students and have been invited to attend BMS class reunions over the years

The Wengers currently reside in Lancaster where Mr. Wenger still drives school bus.  They plan to move to Harrisonburg, VA in a year to live at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community.  They have 4 adult children and 9 grandchildren.

John A. Yoder, Class of 1970, who was Mrs. Wenger’s 4th grade pupil said, “She was a very good teacher. As a student you knew you were on the right side or the wrong side.”