An Interview with a Talawanda Legend: Mr. Meece Retiring After 33.5 Years

An Interview with a Talawanda Legend:  Mr. Meece Retiring After 33.5 Years


It would be very difficult for a Talawanda student to go through their four years of high school without knowing Mr. John Meece — whether they’ve had him for class or not. His energy and care for his students has made him impossible to not appreciate, even when you’re just strolling down the 200 hallway. 

Many of my friends and I have had the opportunity to sit in one of his classes and witness first-hand the level of joy, knowledge, and hilarity that Mr. Meece has brought to his teaching. As someone who has experienced quite a lot of stress surrounding mathematics in the past, I was astonished at how difficult he made it to be in a bad mood while watching him teach. 

As Mr. Meece is retiring at the end of this (rather strange) school year, those of us at the Talawanda Tribune knew it was important to ask him some questions about his career and what he will remember from teaching. Of course, I wish I could have sat down with him in-person for this interview, surrounded by a familiar, laughter-filled classroom, but we all have to make accommodations. Nonetheless, his responses to these questions still express everything that have made his students love him:

Where did you go to school? What did you study? 

Mr. Meece: I graduated from Badin in 1982, then went to Purdue University.  Started out in computer science (even though I had never touched a computer in my life) and quickly changed to a mathematics degree.  My goal was to teach high school math and coach basketball and/or baseball.

Why did you choose to teach math? If you were to teach any other subject, what would it be (or do you just love math too much)? 

Mr. Meece: I liked math in high school.  My junior teacher, Mr Scherl, was probably one of my biggest influences.  He was very good, not too intense, and made the class enjoyable.  He was also my freshman basketball coach.

I wouldn’t want to teach anything else.

How long have you been teaching? 

Mr. Meece: 33.5 years… all at Talawanda.  I had to go an extra semester at Purdue to finish my student teaching, so I was a December graduate.  When I got home from graduation, there was a letter at my house from Talawanda… they had an opening and wanted me to interview.  I interviewed after Christmas with Mr Wilhelm, Mr Pyfrin, and a couple of others… was offered the job and started after Martin Luther King Day in January 1987.  I never looked for another job.

Do you have a favorite unit or specific topic to teach? 

Mr. Meece: Not really… the current unit is usually my favorite. 🙂

How has teaching changed over the years? 

Mr. Meece: That’s a loaded question… there have been a lot of changes, however, a lot has stayed the same.

Technology has probably been the biggest change for me.  When I first started teaching, there was NO graphing calculator.  I saw the first graphing calculator, probably my second year of teaching. We purchased a couple of classroom sets and only used it sparingly.  The graphing calculator and the use of it have come a long way.  Smart boards, Clever Touch, Google, email, Progress book… all of these items have improved the way things happen in a classroom.

Progress book, for example… students and parents can see their grade every hour, if they desire – and some do 🙂  When I was in school, I had a “feel” of what my grade was, but until the report card came out, I really didn’t know.

Another change is the amount of information we know about our students.  We, as a staff, really try to meet the needs of all of our students.  That wasn’t always the case.  For me, I’ve ALWAYS tried to get to know my students.  When school starts, I try to have everyone’s name by the third day.  I believe it sets a great tone that you (my student) are important to me.  Sometimes kids are amazed… They will come in on the second or third day and I’ll say, “Good morning, ____”  Sometimes, they respond with, “I can’t believe you know my name already.”

Many years ago, the math department was doing a project with Miami staff and one of the things we had to do was visit other math teachers’ classes.  I’ll never forget this… it was late September and I was in a classroom.  It was clearly obvious that this teacher – late in September, five weeks into school – didn’t know the names of his students yet!!!! I was appalled. Actually, not surprised, because this teacher had some issues.  (It’s no one on staff now)

Back to the question… what has stayed the same?  As a teacher, I have a room full of students and I have to educate them, motivate them, push them to reach their potential, and maybe, beyond their potential.  The tools I have been given to do this task have changed… the goal has not changed.

What is the most rewarding thing about being an educator?  

Mr. Meece: That’s easy… the relationships with students.  Having a room full of students walk into my classroom with a smile on their face, happy to be in my room, not dreading math.  I absolutely love taking a student who struggles in math and by the end of the year, he/she has had more success than they ever thought possible.

I am touched when a student asks me to write a letter of recommendation… it means I’ve made a connection beyond the math.  I also love when students come back to visit.

What does it mean to be retiring during this time in particular? 

Mr. Meece: It means I’ve picked the right time to retire… 🙂   School is going to change next year.  No one knows how or to what degree, but things are going to change.  Honestly, I’m not interested in deciding what that looks like.  Losing my wife almost two years ago took a lot out of me.  It’s made me realize that life is short and that you have to take advantage of things while you can because you aren’t promised tomorrow and life can change on a moment’s notice.  Think back to Monday, March 9.  I (and probably, we) never ever thought about school closing.  And boom, we are shut down on Friday, never to return for the year.  How quickly did that all happen?  How crazy is it?

I’m young, I’m healthy, and I have things I want to do.  I’ve put in my time. I’ve met with a financial guy who told me I could afford to live my life if I retire.  Therefore, I’m going.  I also want to leave while my reputation is good.  I don’t want to overstay my welcome… I don’t want to be the guy that people point to and say – it’s time for him to go.

What is something you’ll always remember about teaching at Talawanda? 

Mr. Meece: The people – staff and students.  Talawanda is a wonderful place.  I’ve been blessed to work with amazing teachers and administrators.  I’ve had awesome students, and I’ve had parental support.  People have allowed me to teach the way that I feel is best for my kids.  I’ve been at THS more than half of my life.  There are nothing but fond memories.   

I feel that I can speak for the Talawanda student body when I say that Mr. Meece has played a very important role in many of our experiences at THS.  Mr. Meece is a teacher who has brought so much truth, humor, and fun to his profession and he will be missed around the building, but those of us who have learned from him will remember what he taught us every day. 

Here’s to 33.5 remarkable years.  Congratulations Mr. Meece!


Mr. Meece posing with J. Richter and a picture that Richter drew of him.