Stamp looks back on almost 50 years in education

Keith Stamp
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     A longtime Monticello educator is retiring after almost 50 years in education.

     Keith Stamp will be stepping down from this job with Grant Wood Area Education Agency (AEA) later this month. Stamp has been with GWAEA for 18 years.

     Prior to that, he was the principal at Monticello High School at the “old middle school” (former MHS).

     In 1972, Stamps started his teaching career at MHS. He primarily taught American government, sociology, psychology, and family living. Stamp said he co-taught environmental studies with former teacher Ron Newland for several years, too.

     “I have greatly enjoyed my career in education,” said Stamp. “One of the most rewarding aspects has been to see/observe when children are learning new understandings or skills.”

     Stamp grew up in a small rural community in Central Iowa. After attending the University of Northern Iowa where he earned his teaching degree, it was actually his aunt who encouraged him to apply for a teaching job in Monticello.

     “My aunt saw an advertisement for a social studies teacher at Monticello,” he recalled. “I was very impressed with the system that Monticello had at the time and the teaching position matched the areas of my interest.”

     Stamp said the rest is history…

     He said pursuing a degree in education was pure accident.

     “Getting to college is still a bit of a mystery to me,” Stamp said of being the first in his family to attend a four-year college. “Our high school did not have a school counselor, but my parents were supportive of my exploring college.”

     Stamp said he thoroughly enjoyed his teaching courses at UNI, and had a great student teaching experience in Cedar Rapids.

     When Stamp was principal at MHS, they went to a modular schedule, which became a bit controversial.

     “The school board was opposed to all-day lecture days,” he said. “We had kids actively involved in authentic conversations.”

     While this type of schedule wasn’t widely used in high schools, they eventually went to the traditional seven-period day of classes.

     Stamp said when he and his wife, Sandy, arrived in Monticello at the start of his teaching career, everyone was quite welcoming. He said after home football games, staff members would get together at someone’s house as a way to socialize.

     “It was a fun way to meet people,” he said.

     Once Stamp started working for GWAEA as a regional administrator, he made it a point of not partnering with his former school district, Monticello.

     “It was someone else’s turn now,” he said of having that fresh start and stepping away from a place he was quite familiar with.

     Stamp said he wanted to find a new adventure within the world of education, something to allow his to broaden his opportunities “to influence and impact teachers, administrators, and most importantly, students.”

     Stamp was assigned to five area school district, including Midland and Olin. His job allowed him to improve education services for special education students, work with high school special education students to further their lives after high school, work with high schools on general education curriculum and standards, and use digital learning to support instructional learning (integrating technology within the classroom).

     Of his work with special education students and staff, Stamp said it was important to include those students in the total school environment, inclusion.

     “I believe my greatest joys in education have been trying to help students learn and prepare for their future and seeing former students succeed,” he said. “I believe that effective educators need to continue to learn and improve their work and I hope that I have achieved this.”

     In his time with the MCSD, Stamp said he was excited to see the “new” high school built, and now with the new middle school.

     “That was a huge boom and opportunity for our school,” he said of the high school. Stamp said kids would travel to other schools for extra curricular activities and remark about the top-notch facilities compared to Monticello.

     “After the new high school, the kids were proud of it.”

     In addition, Stamp praises the MCSD for its long-standing history of great and varied extra curriculars, both in sports, music, and arts.

     “It’s always been a good balance,” he said. “A big part was the great instructors, coaches, and parents.” He said Monticello had a great balance of boys and girls involved in numerous activities.

     Stamp also gave of his time to other education-related ventures such as the School Foundation (in its infancy) and the Kirkwood Community College Board of Trustees. Stamp has served with Kirkwood for 10 years now.                                  

     “As a principal, I was always supportive of the Kirkwood center at the old hospital,” he said. “We got Monticello, Anamosa, and Midland to cooperate on sending students. We’ve been very fortunate over the years to continue to develop relationships with other districts, and give those opportunities to rural kids.”

     Stamp has two more years left on his term with Kirkwood. After his retirement, he’ll have more time to dedicate to his role as a trustee.

     “I’ve enjoyed it immensely,” he said.

     Looking back on changes in education, one big one is technology.

     “It has a much greater role in teaching and learning,” he said. That’s especially true now with so many kids having to learn from home during the pandemic.

     Stamp said good teaching “has always been about stimulating students to explore their interests and reach outside the classroom to practice their skills…in all content areas.”    

     He’s seen his former students such as Lee Hein and Ray Zirkelbach, both pursue careers that have expanded their interests far beyond Monticello. (Hein is a state representative. Zirkelbach served his country overseas and also served as a state representative.)

     “They were on both sides of the political aisle and it was fun to see,” Stamp said. “I strongly believe in civic engagement, and it’s thrilling to see former students have done that.”

     Stamp himself contributed to his own civic duty, having served as mayor of Monticello in 1984-85.

     Looking back on almost 50 years in education, impacting students’ lives, helping educators to make a difference, Stamp said, “It’s been quite a career. It’s been a fun career. I hope I’ve made a positive impact.”


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