For Sue Unruh, family has be a reoccurring theme in her teaching career.

For Sue Unruh, family has be a reoccurring theme in her teaching career.
Unruh has been teaching fifth and sixth-grade students at Galva Middle School for 30 years. During that time, she’s had the opportunity to teach many children of her former students. For her, the experience is something special.
“I have six second generations this year alone,” Unruh said. “I think it’s funny to see how much alike they are or how different they are. I can honestly say I have never had a second generation that I have not enjoyed.”
One such student is Ty Maltbie. He was a sixth-grade student at Galva Middle School when Unruh began teaching there. His daughter, Megan, is in her class this year.
“[Ty] was the most adorable little boy, and he had the shiniest hair that looked like silk,” Unruh said. “When I look at his kids, sometimes, I see Ty.”
Ty said he remembers Unruh as a nice teacher with interesting, unique classes. He said he remembered in particular an assignment she gave her students to write a paper about an influential person in their lives. Five years after they graduated, she sent them all a copy of their papers.
“It was a reminder of who we thought was influential back in sixth grade,” Ty said.
Unruh said she enjoys having Megan in her class because she’s so different from her parents.
“Both her parents are pretty quiet and reserved, and if Megan’s got something to say, she'll say it,” Unruh said. “I love that.”
Ty also has a son, Garrett, in third grade. Unruh said she plans to retire in four years, which means Garrett will be in her last class.
While she’s never had Garrett as a student, she’s met him through recreational sports, which she and her husband manage.
“Garrett is his father,” Unruh said. “He’s kind of quiet and adorable and very athletic like his dad was.”
Teaching second generations wasn’t the first time teaching and family crossed for Unruh. She said she comes from a family of educators and never considered anything else as a career.
“I didn’t know there was anything else, really,” Unruh said. “My dad was superintendent of schools here for 30 years, and I just always grew up at school functions.”
Unruh’s grandma, brother and aunts were also teachers.
“I just thought that’s what you did,” Unruh said.
After graduating from Canton and Galva schools, Unruh went to Emporia State University, where she got her master’s degree. She student taught at Galva Middle School for a semester and was hired on as a full-time teacher.
Unruh said in 30 years of teaching, she’s come to believe that any child can learn, no matter what, and that how she makes them feel is sometimes more important than what she teaches them.
“We still get invited to kids’ weddings and all those kinds of things, and that had nothing to do with what I taught them in the classroom,” Unruh said. “I am not the best teacher or instructor or planner or anything like that, but I think what I do bring to the table is I do care about them, and they know that.”
Unruh said she thinks a lot of state and national education requirements miss that emotional side.
“The whole testing is nuts,” Unruh said. “They test kids to death, and that has no bearing on who they are or what they’re going to become. Nothing.”
Unruh said her favorite thing about teaching is the strength she gets from her students.
“I love their spirit,” Unruh said. “Their tenacity and their hopeful spirit is what keeps me going. Because they are hopeful. Even the worst case kids are hopeful.”
She said their excitement helps her keep going as well.
“I love when they get excited about something or something makes them happy or when I see them in class and someone says, ‘I don't have a pencil,’ and somebody goes ‘You can use mine!’” Unruh said. “I love that.”
Unruh said she loves the community support.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and I think that’s why I will never ever leave this school district because that’s what we do here,” Unruh said. “We’re a village, and in a small community like this, we take care of everybody else’s kids. It’s what you do.”
In the end, Unruh said she wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else.
“They’re just fun, and I could not have fun in another job like I can here,” Unruh said.

Contact Josh Arnett by email at and follow him on Twitter @ArnettSentinel.