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Reed High teacher has seen growth, changes in Sparks
by Jessica Garcia
May 01, 2010 | 1460 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Debra Reid - Reed High School home economics teacher Rene Campbell has taught at the school for 32 years.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Reed High School home economics teacher Rene Campbell has taught at the school for 32 years.
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Rene Campbell grew up in Sparks and remembers its northeast unincorporated area, Spanish Springs, when there was nothing out in the area but places to ride horses and do some target practice. Over time, she has watched the entire area blossom and become what it is today.

“The growth has been phenomenal,” Campbell said. “In Reno and Sparks we have so much to do. Go 30 minutes and you’re in the mountains. Go downtown and you have wonderful dining and you can go shopping or go to the university and take classes.”

She’s watched the Washoe County School District grow, as well.

Today she teaches at Reed High School, one of two Sparks employees with the longest tenure with the Washoe County School District: 35 years. When she began her career, many of the district’s schools weren’t even built yet.

“When I got started, I taught at Wooster High School (in Reno) and, of course, Reed wasn’t built yet or Spanish Springs or (Reno’s) North Valleys,” she said. “I went to UNR (the University of Nevada, Reno) at the time and they had the Sarah Fleischmann School of Home Economics and it was one of the best on the West Coast. It doesn’t exist anymore, but I was able to train at UNR.”

In her childhood, Campbell attended Sparks’ Lincoln Park Elementary School and Dilworth Middle School. During her studies at UNR, Campbell majored in home economics, better known today as family and consumer science. She found her passion right away.

“I found that being around the kids was fun and it was exciting and it was fun to watch them take an idea and go with it,” she said. “In family and consumer science, you take a student who doesn’t even have a skill and they become highly skilled in food preparation or a student who has never sat down at a sewing machine an can all of a sudden make a dress or a formal outfit or a pair of pants.”

Though her area of expertise has changed its name, it retains some of the principles she learned in college.

“It had a more modern name to it,” she said. “It’s still about clothing and textiles, food and nutrition, interior design, child development and human growth.”

As are all the other employees in the district, she’s also watching the administration and schools weather the storm of budget reductions with a $33 million shortfall.

“I think right now, the push for education is they want rigor, they want relevance and they want relationships,” Campbell said. “They’re looking at rigor and at raising the bar. As our new superintendent (Heath Morrison) has said, the goal is all high school graduates will be college- and career-ready.”

That goal includes young women whose livelihood in the 1970s, when Campbell graduated, used to be preparation for homemaking.

“The majority of girls did not go on to college; most went on to be homemakers,” she said. “Society has changed where girls now have equal opportunity, lots of opportunities and just as many girls go to college as guys. That’s been a very positive change.”

Campbell’s 32 years at Reed have been fruitful and rewarding, she said.

“There have been changes over the years, but Reed is still a very positive school,” Campbell said. “We’re very lucky to have Mary Vesco as principal. She’s very supportive of family and consumer science and your principal becomes the driving force behind success. Our department has been able to grow over the years. Class size was probably around 20 students when I first started and now it’s about 28 to 30. I expect they will continue to increase with the budget cuts. This is probably a period of the biggest change I’ve seen.”

Campbell seeks to keep her students positive and encouraged; that’s never changed over the years, she said.

“I think you have to have a positive attitude,” she said. “You have to have to glass half-full and not half-empty. You get up and you know this is going to be a great day. … And I love to go to graduation. That’s one of my favorite things to do as you push them out of the nest and send them on their way to a bright and wonderful future.”
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