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Teacher Spotlight: Penny Matney

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM Penny Matney grew up in Marshall County and is a longtime Marshalltown teacher. She taught in the Marshalltown School District for 31 years and is now teaching at St. Francis School.

Meet Penny Matney, the extended learning program teacher at St. Francis School in Marshalltown.

Matney, 60, is originally from Albion and graduated from Marshalltown High School in 1978. She is a three-time graduate of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Matney received her bachelor’s of arts degree in elementary education and remedial reading in 1982, a master’s in special education in 1989 and an advanced degree in educational leadership in 2000.

Matney has been employed at the private school since August 2018. She began her teaching career in a small school district in central Missouri where she taught fifth grade. Then Matney moved back home and accepted a position with the Marshalltown School District where she stayed for 31 years as a special education teacher, coordinator of at-risk programming and literacy coach.

Matney and her husband, John, spend time between two homes — a condo in Marshalltown and a bungalow in Conrad. John works for Green Products in Conrad. Their daughter Allison, 28, teaches secondary English in Elkader. Allison and her husband, Willis, have given Matney a 5-year-old grandson, Brady. Matney is also excited about the arrival of another grandchild in June.

Q: Why did you decide to become a teacher?

A: I loved and admired my teachers at Albion Elementary so much that I bucked my grandmother’s wishes for me to be a nurse and decided to be a teacher when I was in fourth grade. One of the best rebellious things I ever did! Later in college, I completed an aptitude test to make sure I was headed in the right direction. The results indicated I should either be a teacher or a youth pastor. So I guess I ended up in the right place.

Q: What is it like being a teacher at your school?

A: The staff: we are a comunity of positive and like-minded people — our principal, teachers, including early childhood and daycare, custodians, lunchroom and office staff. Wherever you turn, there are friendly faces to greet you and immediate support when you need help. The students: like students in any building, they want to know you care and are so responsive to that. Their smiles in the morning cement my intentions for it to be a great day. I discovered last year working especially with the fifth and sixth graders that they are close-knit groups of students who care about each other. They are the heart of the school. The parents: if the students are the heart, the parents are the soul. Many of these parents were students at St. Francis themselves and their loyalties run deep. St. Francis parents put in extraordinary time and effort to ensure that SFCS is the best that it can be.

Q: What are the best aspects of your job?

A: The students, of course. Watching them develop a passion for learning is exciting and motivating. Unique to Catholic schools is the religious education that is embedded into the curriculum. While I don’t formally teach religion, to be able to talk about our shared faith and to be able to pray with the students, and the teachers too, creates a different level of intimacy in getting to know the studen. I’m fortunate to get to bring unique experiences to students by virtue of the position. Even though it’s been a learning curve for me, that’s been fun and exciting.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face?

A: Time. In the teaching world, the challenge is all about managing the time.

Q: What do you want people to know about your job or your school?

A: I love the students and the people with whom I work.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time:

A: I love spending time with my husband doing just about anything, including some of the following: I love to read and meet with a great book club every month; I also love to make things with my hands – greeting cards, scarves, dish rags, ornaments, etc. — some day soon I will be teaching one of my students how to knit; I love spending time with my family and we all love playing cards; I enjoy trying new recipes when time allows; I love solving all sorts of puzzles. There are so many things I enjoy. I’m sure I’m forgetting to mention a passion or two.

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