Kathy Daley | Democrat
At the Callicoon branch of Western Sullivan Public Library, Cindy Menges, left, assists her Delaware Valley kindergarten teacher, Helen Adams, on a computer. Menges directs the library’s Public Computer Center. Cindy graduated Delaware Valley Central School in 1979 as Cindy Buddenhagen.
Four decades later, the ‘kindergartner’ teaches teacher
By Kathy Daley
CALLICOON Some months ago, Helen Adams settled into her seat at a Western Sullivan Public Library computer class in Callicoon. She glanced up at the teacher, Cindy Menges, who looked vaguely familiar.
“I thought to myself, ‘I know this girl,’” Adams recalled. “I think I taught her in kindergarten.”
“Helen actually went home and looked up her class rosters and found my name,” added Menges, who, as Cindy Buddenhagen, began kindergarten in 1966 at Delaware Valley School in Callicoon.
The two had never seen one another in the past 45 years, but they are delighted to renew their acquaintance.
“She’s amazing,” said Menges. “And I keep thinking, how cool is this the kindergarten student is teaching her teacher.”
Menges directs the library’s Public Computer Center, which is a grant-funded program that teaches computer skills to people who are technology novices or to those who want to increase their prowess.
Computer labs in WSPL’s Callicoon, Narrowsburg and Jeffersonville branches have attracted hundreds of individuals over the past two years. Some seek one-on-one support from Menges and tech/trainer Patrick McCullough. Others take classes in understanding Word or Excel, surfing the web, and job searching, to name a few of the topics.
Each person has a story, notes Menges. Especially Helen Adams.
Adams grew up in Equinunk, PA and, at age 21, began teaching kindergarten at Delaware Valley School in 1955. She moved on to the Damascus School, across the Delaware River, in 1970.
After retiring from Damascus in 2010, Adams now volunteers there at least one day each week. For the school’s kindergarten and first grade classes, she conducts reading or math groups and helps children who are struggling academically. She also helps five-year-olds to master other skills: one teacher begged her to “teach him to tie his shoelaces!”
“A retired person needs to keep out in society,” declared Adams. “You need to do something instructive and do something to learn.”
Not that she has a great deal of free time. She and husband Bill still operate a farm that, until recently, kept dairy cows. “Now we keep heifers and young stock,” she said. Son Karl works on the farm, which is about a mile from Damascus School. Another grown son, Dean, works in the health service field in North Carolina.
Helen turned to teaching so many years ago because “at the time, that’s what women did: you became a teacher or a nurse or a secretary.”
A friend of hers said, “Teaching? Look at your size and think about this.” Adams is still a petite 90 pounds.
But Adams studied at East Stroudsburg (PA) Teacher’s College, now a university, and she never looked back.
“Teaching is fabulous,” she said. “Children eager to learn, social contacts with parents, with co-workers. It’s a lovely job, and it’s inside, where you are warm and comfortable.”
Down through the years, she’s frequently taught the offspring of students she had in class. “Once a little boy came into my class and said ‘Mrs. Adams, did you really have my grandmother in class?’”
Because she taught up until recently, Adams found herself as immersed in computer technology as the next teacher, even though she was in her seventies. But she knew there were some things she was unsure of. When a friend asked her to go along to a WSPL computer workshop, Adams agreed.
“I wanted knowledge in the field of e-readers,” Adams said. “So I took that class. Then I took one on spreadsheets, which you really need to know if you have a farm business.”
“I’ve enjoyed all the classes I’ve taken very much,” she said, of the library courses, “and now I’m going to take the File Management class.”
Menges continues to find her kindergarten teacher a remarkable woman.
“Helen is interesting because she has such a drive and a yearning for knowledge,” Menges said. “I find it fascinating that she’s embraced these dramatic changes that have come along in technology. She soaks up everything and she gets it. She’s cool.”