Life Goes On
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As the lights came up and the students filed out for curtain call tears were being held back as the last student came out with flowers to present to the beloved teacher and director.
Elisa Guse has decided to retire after 37 years of teaching, four of which were here at the high school. Guse taught and directed debate and theatre and will be dearly missed. Knowing that her leaving will affect all those she has impacted in her four short years as a teacher had made her decision difficult.
“This is not easy,” Guse said. “I mean I think it’s the right thing to do and I’m doing it for the right reasons. But that doesn’t make it easy. This is what I’ve always done. But it’ll work it’ll be okay. I didn’t think this would be that hard.”
After her mother became ill and continued to worsen Guse knew her sister would not be able to take care of their mother alone which is the primary reason for retiring from the job she loves.
“I retired to help my family,” Guse said. “Cause sometimes you gotta stop take care of those who took care of you. And that’s kind of how I looked at it. My mom took care of me for a long time and now it’s my turn to take care of her.”
Guse plans to continue with teaching and theatre for as long as possible even if it is not at the high school. She can always be found at the Duncanville Community Theatre where she is currently Director of Education.
“I’ll take care of my mom as long as necessary and then I’m still directing at the theatre so I can still do theatre and then after that I’m not sure,” Guse said. “I’ll just take it as it comes.”
With endless opportunities for the future Guse looks back at all she had done while teaching. With memories to keep and lessons to hold Guse shares her tales of a world she will never forget.
“What I enjoyed most about teaching were the kids,” Guse said. “But I just enjoyed helping and I enjoyed being around them, I enjoyed watching them grow. I enjoyed watching yall improve.”
Recalling her last week at the high school Guse tells of the small kind gestures the students had done to wish her a nice goodbye.
“The kids were really good to me,” Guse said. “That last week of school. They wrote me some really nice letters that I will keep. That’s what I love about teaching. And I will get through this.”
With only having taught four years at with high school students Guse admits had she known how much she would love teaching older teenagers she would have come earlier.
“I always felt that I wasn’t prepared enough for high school kids because I had always been at the middle school,” Guse said. “Then when I came here it was so different. I wish I had known that and I would have come sooner.”
Teaching students for so long eventually Guse says she had to do a bit of learning herself. She had to learn how to adapt to the different teaching styles for different students especially as the years went and students had changed to stay with trends.
“I used to always think it was so corny when they would say “We are going to be lifelong learners” because that was the key phrase for a long time,” Guse said. “But what changed for me is learning how to work with kids as they change. Because kids have changed a lot.”
It is not the teacher’s job to do anything other than teach but in some cases the students become the teachers and in those instances is when Guse knew she had made a connection with her students. In which both her and the student had learned a lesson in similarities and differences.
“Learning how to be human with the kids,” Guse said. “It’s real important when kids realize you’re human and then they laugh and help me with the computers or they laugh and help me with my phone. I guess they just realize that I’m just like them in a lot of ways. I teach them, they teach me.”
With four years teaching at the high school it was almost impossible to make connections with students and having friendships that will last a lifetime. That will stay with her always.
“Being your friend was not the number one as a teacher,” Guse said. “The number one thing is that you’re the student and we teach you but when you become friends and you establish those relationships that’s kind of like the icing on the cake. And it’s kind of what teachers take with them.”
With building relationships came the heartwrentching part of telling those specific students of her retirement. Breaking the news to the students wasn’t easy nor was taking in the information.
“When she told me it didn’t hit me until I was walking out her room it broke my heart and I burst into tears,” senior Paris Major said.
Having Guse as a teacher for both debate and theatre for two years has made an impact on sophomore Savyna Viraphonh. Guse has always been there for her students and will continue to be there when needed even if she is not in her classroom.
“I’m devastated that she’s leaving,” Viraphonh said. “Mrs.Guse was my safe haven and I went to her room when I needed time and space, and it’s kind of like I’m losing a mom or aunt.”
Turning to a lighter point in her years as a teacher at the high school Guse retells the story of her first production which took place three years ago.
“My favorite memory is my very first show I did here,” Guse said. “Blithe Spirit and it was a show I always wanted to do.
So when I finally did my first show with the high schoolers I felt so good, it just made me feel like I had accomplished something.”
During the Holiday show Duncanville alumni Keyvon Harris stopped by to say hello to his former teacher of six years. Being surprised with the news of Guse’s retirement Harris shares his favorite memory of a production four years ago.
“My favorite memory with Mrs.Guse would have to be when I was in her first play production ‘Do Not Go Gentle’ and a mishap took place,” Duncanville alumni Keyvon Harris said. “At the ending scene I was suppose to take off this cover on this painting and it was suppose to be a picture of me on the wall however it was a random black wall replacing it. I said a line that was funny to the audience and us cast member. ‘That looks just like me’. It was funny to the audience and the cast.”
Continuing with the aftershock of the retirement news students tell of their personal favorite memories with Guse.
“I would say that my favorite memory with Mrs.Guse is going to the debate competitions with her early before the sun was even up” senior Artemio Cobos said. “It is a sad moment in my high school road that she has departed us but I know she is a strong woman and she expects for us to be just as strong.”
After the sharing of memories Guse explains that if the students kept anything she taught she hopes it would be the lesson of never giving up and to finish strong.
“I think the biggest lesson I want them to learn from me is that they can do whatever they set their mind to,” Guse said. “It won’t be easy but you can do it and that there are people out there that are willing to help. You can’t give up, especially at this age you’re so close. You’ve got to finish high school then you have the opportunities to go to college and you can do all those wonderful things you think you want to do. Some people just have to work a little harder and that’s just life.”
Guse brought so many students opportunities to grow and experience new things. To learn how to stand tall and always pushed everyone to strive to do better, which is something that will always stay with Viraphonh.
“Mrs.Guse let me experience many things that I have never experienced,” Viraphonh said. “Somehow, she did so much to help me and wanted me to advance in acting and debating.”
After being a teacher for 37 years Guse is satisfied with where she is. She is happy with the relationships she created and how much her students have grown. After doing something she loves for so long she can’t find anything to fix or change about the whole experience.
“I would have done nothing differently,” Guse said. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher since 9th grade. I set my sights on being a teacher and never looked back. So 37 years later I was still doing this. And that’s what I did and that’s what I can feel good about because I followed my dream.”
Guse knows that things will continue as normal in the school. The students will continue with their studies and the teachers will continue with their lessons. Guse believes the high school is a place of many opportunities and hopes that the school and students continue to grow and prosper.
“Life goes on,” Guse said. “And that’s probably another big lesson you need to learn. You like to think that you are needed and needed to be there. And you are but when you leave life goes on. So I would like the school to continue going in the positive direction that I see it going in. And I want the kids to be happy”
With her retirement having come so sudden a few of Guse’s students spoke up of some of the many lessons they had learned and of how she had impacted them as a teacher, mentor, and friend.
“Mrs Guse impacted my life in a major she was there when no one else was mentally and physically she help make it last few years of school if wasn’t for her guidance I would be really bad off and she still here to this day,” Major said.
Even when Guse wasn’t teaching whether it was an academic lesson or life lesson Viraphonh was still able to learn from the stories the teacher, that had become like family to her, told.
“She never really taught this, I learned this from listening to her life stories and watching her struggle, but she taught me that things may go horribly wrong, and you may not like it, but just let it happen and turn it into a good story,” Viraphonh said.
With performing, debating, or standing on a stage in front of a crowd there are traits a person must learn. And having Guse as a teacher to guide him taught Cobos to seek a positive light even with failure.
“She taught me humility, social skills, speaking my mind, but best of all she taught me to seek a lesson to learn in the face of defeat,” Cobos said. “Whenever I failed at something she taught me to truly look for the positive and to continue to strive for learning whether it’d be academically or personally.”
With years of students continuing to flood the halls ahead many will be missing out on the tips and teachings of Guse whether it be with problems at home or how to work with a new group of people.
“I feel like the next generation of theatre kids will miss out on the fundamentals and Mrs.Guse’s motherly love,” Harris said.
With her final moments as a teacher being at the last showing of the Holiday Production Viraphonh shared a few words about how Guse had become so much more than just a teacher to not only her but to the whole theatre department.
“Mrs.Guse is a friend,” sophomore Savyna Viraphonh said. “Mrs.Guse is such an inspiration and I can honestly say that she’s by far the best teacher that I’ve had. And I’m so happy to have met her.”
With a final bow Guse leaves DuncanvilleISD, but not without making an impact on the school and everyone she has touched, hoping for nothing but the best for everyone.
“So I just wish all the happiness for the teachers here, success to the kids to the groups of the theatre department to just continue,” Guse said. “Because Duncanville really is a good place to be. And there are so many opportunities here and I just want all the opportunities to continue and they will because life goes on.”