HGMS courtyard named after retired teacher

3/7/2013

By RACHAEL GRAY

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

Norman Clark spent four decades at Abe Hubert Middle School, which started as Garden City Junior High School, teaching students about history and making it relevant to their lives.

Clark often used local history and historical marks to illustrate to students what kind of an impact the past makes on people and places.

Now Clark will be a part of that Garden City history.

Monday night the USD 457 Board of Education approved naming the courtyard at Horace Good Middle School after him.

Clark said he was honored after the approval.

"I do feel it's a great honor and it kind of makes me feel good about all of my efforts because I really do know the history of this town and did try to make it relevant to the students," he said.

He said he was very passionate about his job.

"I really spent a lot of time connecting the history to the kids and listening also to what they told me about history. I learned so much stuff around this town," he said.

Clark retired three years ago. During his time in education, he saw many changes.

He said one day, a student brought a pistol to school. One of the student's family members had ridden with Pancho Villa.

"It still had the notches on the handle," Clark said.

"That was way back then, and no one said anything," he said.

Clark also taught in Victoria and Atwood before coming to Garden City and was always passionate about history.

He took students to National History Day in Washington, D.C., five separate years.

Clark said the school was one of the only public middle schools to go. Most were from private or smaller schools.

The best part of Clark's job, he said, was relating the students to the history.

He often taught about the Clutter murders and "In Cold Blood," a 1959 case that put Holcomb and Garden City on the map.

He also reached out to the immigrant communities to encourage students to get an education.

Clark connected with Hispanic immigrant students and also reached out the German Mennonite Community.

Becky Clark, his daughter, remembers that as well.

"Often, the German-Mennonite students wouldn't go past eighth grade. He did home visits to talk to parents about the importance of education. He always went above and beyond," she said.

That encouraged Becky Clark to go into education.

"If I can leave this profession and touch half as many lives as he has, I can consider myself successful," she said.

She also had him for history.

"I remember him creating opportunities for us to learn that were really engaging and fun. History can be boring, but he made it alive, rigorous and relevant. He gave us great projects to hook us in about history," she said.

Amy Corrales, his other daughter, also is an educator.

She teaches adult education in English as Second Language in the Dallas area.

Corrales also said she her father inspired her to go into teaching and she's glad to see the courtyard named after him.

"I think it's exciting and could not go to a more deserving teacher. He has invested so much in the community of Garden City. It's a great way to honor him and his dedication to the community," she said.

Corrales also had her father as a teacher. She said a lot of her peers thought he was hard on them, but as they got older they ended up loving him, remembering him as one of their favorite teachers, she said.

Corrales said it's common for her father to run into former students — even as far away as Greenville, Texas.

When Clark was visiting Corrales in Greenville, a student approached him and called out, "Mr. Green?"

"It was one of the students he had gone to History Day with in Washington, D.C., Even 11 hours from home, people are still calling him Mr. Clark," Corrales said.

George Hopkins and his wife Lori were students of his in the 1970s. Their then their sons also were students.

Hopkins said it's nice to see Clark recognized.

"I think it's nice. It's good to see people of that caliber get recognized. As a teacher, we always thought of him as enjoyable to be around. He had a quirky style. He was just a really consistent hardworking teacher. I'm glad we take the opportunity to recognize those teachers, as well as the really flamboyant, successful ones," he said.

Matt Allen, city manager of Garden City, also was a former student.

"He took an interest in all the students and was a really great teacher. This is great. It's a nice honor for Mr. Clark and it's well deserved. It's nice that this community recognizes its educators by naming buildings, places, etc., after them. It's very appropriate the school district would pick Mr. Clark as one of those people," he said.

Carla Algrim, instructional coach at HGMS, taught with Clark for 12 years. He was the department head for social studies while she was teaching.

"He was a wealth of knowledge, especially about local southwest Kansas history and regional, on into Oklahoma," she said.

Algrim said Clark was a help to her, as she is not a native Kansan and grew up in Nebraska.

She said he helped re-start History Day in the Schools.

"If he taught here today, I could see him using the courtyard," she said.

In an email to The Telegram, USD 457 Public Information Coordinator Roy Cessna said the Board of Education policy and process in naming a common space within or outside of a school provided the opportunity to honor Clark.

"He was very prominent in the field of education during his long tenure at Garden City Public Schools," Cessna said. "The school district is working with the family and the school on a time to dedicate the courtyard at Horace J. Good Middle School in Mr. Clark's honor."

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