A retired English teacher who spent 39 years teaching at Wapakoneta City Schools said she felt a calling to teach.
“I knew I wanted to be an English teacher since I was in the eighth grade,” said Diane Dillman Elshire, who retired at the end of the school year. “It was always my favorite subject.”
Elshire said every teacher she ever had in elementary and high school was important in her life and she wanted to pattern her life after them.
She read every book in her elementary library and writing came naturally as a result of all that reading. When her older brother and sister sat at the kitchen table doing homework, Elshire would ask her mother for homework, too.
“I filled rainbow pad after rainbow pad with letters, numbers and drawings,” Elshire said. “I also played library and taught my dolls so much. They were all perfect students.”
A graduate of Bluffton High School, Elshire earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Bowling Green State University. Her former high school principal, Walter (Bud) Marshall, was the principal of Wapakoneta High School, when Elshire was hired for her first job teaching eighth- and ninth-grade at Blume Junior High.
It was there that Elshire said she learned the mantra, “be fair, be firm and use common sense” and said it has been a guiding influence on her life as an educator.
She taught at Blume High School for nearly 15 years and spent the past 25 years teaching at Wapakoneta High School.
“Although I’ve had opportunities to teach in other school systems, something always held me here in Wapakoneta,” Elshire said. “Looking back, I’m glad it did.”
During her first few years teaching, Elshire became active in the Wapakoneta Education Association (WEA), holding offices and editing a newsletter locally, and attending several Ohio Education Association leadership academies.
She also attended representative assemblies in Troy and Columbus throughout her career.
Elshire is the president of Alpha Delta Kappa, Alpha Xi Chapter, an international sorority of women educators which recognizes excellence in the classroom, altruistic endeavors and scholarship opportunities. She also supports Mercy Unlimited and the Auglaize County Women’s Crisis Center, and for many years was a member of the Auglaize County International Reading Association and helped the WEA write and publish the pamphlet, “Will Your Baby Read?,” a publication still handed out to new parents in the county.
She also served as the scholarship chair for the Curtis-Dahill and WEA scholarships for several years. She also worked on several negotiated contracts between the WEA and the Board of Education.
Elshire said the highest honor she received was “Outstanding English Language Arts Educator” in 1986 from the Ohio Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts (OCTELA). She also had an article published in Learning Magazine in 1987 and earned two Golden Apple Achiever Awards from Ashland Oil Company in the early 1990s.
The 61-year-old said her favorite memories of her time spent teaching include the family atmosphere of Blume, where she served as adviser of the school newspaper. She always enjoyed the spring dance and honors banquet and taking advanced English classes to Shakespeare plays at the Civic Center, in Lima.
“I had the opportunity to work with five superintendents and seven or eight principals throughout my career and some of the most dedicated and dynamic educators in the area,” Elshire said. “I was proud to be a member of the Wapakoneta High School English Department.”
She served as the English Department chair for several years.
She said former Assistant Principal Jason Kline was special and taught them all as he battled cancer that “every day was a good day.” Elshire said if she ever had a son, she would want him to be like Kline.
One of her most cherished memories happened in 1997, when her husband proposed in front of approximately 500 students on Valentine’s Day.
“Jim planned it because he wanted my close friends and colleagues to be a part of it,” Elshire said. “It was truly a day that changed my life. I know God had a hand in that, too.”
Elshire said she will miss the students and her colleagues the most now that she has retired.
“The kids energized me,” Elshire said, mentioning how the school spirit shown during the girls basketball tournament run was contagious.
She said she will also miss their nervousness on the first day of school, the quietness of them when taking tests — seeing their concentration and only hearing the whisper of pens and pencils skim across paper.
“Sometimes I think I could see their thoughts as they hurried to write them,” Elshire said. “I loved watching my students take tests because they were so serious about it.”
She said she will miss the students’ tears and laughter, their uncertainty and their confidence, their humor and compassion, and their successes and failures which would often turn into life lessons.
“In 39 years, Mr. (Keith) Horner, superintendent, estimated that I had taught over 5,000 students in my junior high and high school English classes,” Elshire said. “I hope I was able to reach some of them through Shakespeare, Poe and mythology. I hope I left them a legacy and a love of learning and I hope they know how much I care — because I did care.”
Elshire said when people asked her how many children she has, she often would say 140. She explained one of the neatest things she experienced through the years was becoming colleagues with many former students.
She also avidly reads the newspaper and enjoys seeing successes of former students published there.
“I am thrilled to see these former students as adults giving back to their community and being so successful,” Elshire said. “It’s gratifying to know that I was just a little piece of the puzzle that helped form their life pictures.”
Elshire, who lives in Wapakoneta, attends First United Methodist Church, is an Ohio High School Athletic Association registered track official, enjoys attending high school and college sporting events. She also enjoys musicals, concerts, movies and plays and has seen 10 Broadway plays in New York City and one in Chicago.
Elshire said changes in the state retirement system prompted her retirement at this time, but she loved teaching so much she felt like she could have done it forever.
“I also realize there is life after teaching,” said Elshire, whose brother and sister, mother and stepfather continue to reside in Bluffton, has a niece in Orlando, a nephew in Atlanta, and three step-children and four step-grandchildren in Wapakoneta and Beavercreek.
She and her husband would like to do some traveling, but before they head to Washington. D.C. to see the cherry blossoms in bloom and take another cruise, she is resting and relaxing this summer.
“Then I’m going to let my retirement activities find me.”