'Tough but fair' Dreiling hangs it up after 42 years at Victoria
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Gene Dreiling smiles when he talks about students who have told him through the years they didn't need to study English because they weren't going to college.
"My response has always been, 'You're the ones I most want to reach and teach, for this is your last chance to learn English in a structural educational environment,' " he said. " 'What you learn here is going to have to last your lifetime.' "
Dreiling is retiring this year after 42 years of teaching English at Victoria High School. And if students, past or present, had to choose a single word to describe Dreiling, it probably would be respect.
"He was not only a very wonderful teacher but so encouraging for girls to reach their goals, too, back in the '70s when girls were just being included in things," said Rhoda Urban, a former student of Dreiling's and now a junior high science and social studies teacher at Victoria Junior High.
Urban said she was inspired by Dreiling to go into teaching as a career and even thought about teaching English at one time. She said Dreiling set high goals for his students.
"He was tough, had very high standards," she said, "but fair."
Dreiling grew up in the Kansas City area, and most of his classmates at Bishop Miege High School were headed to the University of Kansas to college.
But Dreiling's father was from this area and owned land in Ellis County.
"He said if I did the farm work (on his land), he would help me with my college expenses," said Dreiling, who enrolled at Fort Hays State University. "It was mutually beneficial for both of us."
Dreiling met his future wife, Lorie, at FHSU, and they began long teaching careers together. Lorie retired last year after a 39-year teaching career at Felten Middle School.
Dreiling got his first teaching job at VHS in 1971, and it turned out to be his last teaching job, too.
He lived with his family in Hays and said he enjoyed the 10-minute drive to Victoria each morning. The same held true for his return trip home after school.
Along the way, he sponsored a variety of school organizations, helping with "just about everything but coaching sports," he said.
Several current teachers in the Victoria school system, as well as members of the USD 432 Board of Education and the board clerk were taught by Dreiling, as well as their children.
"Now I've begun to teach the third generation," he said.
Other teaching opportunities in the area popped up through the years, but Dreiling said, "By that time, I had really kind of devised the English department (at Victoria) and structured it the way I wanted it."
"I am the English department," he chuckled.
After today, Victoria's last day of school for 2012-13, VHS will have to find a replacement for its English department.
That won't be an easy task, Urban said.
"You inspired me as a student and as a person," Urban told Dreiling at a retirement party in his honor earlier this month, where former students and current colleagues told Dreiling how much they respected him.
"It's made me think that some day we're going to ask, 'Who will fill your shoes?' " Urban said. "Now I do wonder, who will fill your shoes?"