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Archive for Tuesday, December 28, 1999

HUNDREDS SHOW UP FOR ROTH RETIREMENT PARTY

December 28, 1999

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Former students, students' parents and supporters raised more than $30,000 for a scholarship in Stan Roth's name.

Stan Roth got a warm sendoff from former students Monday night and a surprise -- more than $30,000 for a scholarship bearing his name.

"This is to be a lasting tribute to your teaching career," said co-organizer Marilyn Bittenbender-Heck.

Three former students -- Bittenbender-Heck, Scott Campbell and Allen Belot -- banded together with Roth's wife, Janet, to throw a retirement party for the former Lawrence biology teacher, who took voluntary early retirement this summer.

After four months of planning and mailing thousands of invitations, more than 300 people showed up at the Eldridge Hotel to see their biology teacher.

"It's rare that any teacher has had this kind of response," Belot said.

Well-wishers looked over scrapbooks of dozens of field trips and the more than 20 slide trays full of shots of starfish, snakes and students spanning 40 years. They also brought money.

The organizers had wanted to start a scholarship in Roth's name. They started out thinking small -- maybe a few hundred dollars. Another former student suggested they think big, enough to invest and award scholarships off the interest. During the party, the total for the Stan Roth scholarship hit $31,250 -- much greater than the goal of $20,000 the group had targeted.

"I really can't believe it," Roth said, looking toward the huge check for the scholarship fund.

Roth will get to set the parameters for the scholarship, most likely for high school seniors interested in pursuing science teaching degrees.

"I probably won't sleep tonight thinking about it," he said.

Roth voluntarily retired this summer rather than accept the district's offer of a non-teaching position. He had been at Lawrence High School for 38 years and at Free State High School for two years.

Though the district wouldn't comment on its reasons, citing confidentiality rules, Roth has said that the proposed move out of the classroom was prompted by complaints about his teaching style. A news story about his retirement set off a flurry of letters mostly for but some against Roth's teaching style. Roth's plight even gained front-page coverage in The Washington Post.

"When he saw those letters to the editor, do you know what he said? 'Look how his writings improved,'" Janet Roth told the crowd. "He's had so much fun out of this. If he'd retired in a normal fashion, we'd never have had this much fun."

The response to the retirement party awed organizers. Janet Roth said she originally had planned only a small reception. Organizers had made reservations for 180, but had to move the party's location as more and more responses were received.

Belot said Monday evening gave former students a chance to give Roth a proper sendoff from his teaching career, as opposed to what they regarded as the district's shoddy treatment of a longtime teacher.

"This is not the way you treat a man that has dedicated his whole life to kids," Belot said.

-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is fhaynes@ljworld.com.

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