Jerry Schrock, a teacher in the Mason City School District for 26 years, recently organized a fundraiser to build a memorial for former Mason High School students Martin Gruber and Ted Middleton, who were killed in the Vietnam War. We sat down with Schrock to discuss the memorial, life and the lessons of teaching.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since launching the fundraiser to build the memorial? 

I learned, once again, how generous the Mason community is. Also, the gratitude expressed by the family members of Marty and Ted is also very heartwarming. The message sent by the community’s outpouring of donations let those families know we remember their lost family members and we want their courage to motivate our students for years to come.

What’s your favorite part about teaching? 

I love helping kids who need me. Seeing a student who “gets it” and you see the light shine in their face is always something that touches me. I will so miss that when I eventually leave the classroom at the end of this year.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a teacher? 

Make sure teaching students is your passion. We all must remember that we teach students about a subject. Yes, the subject is important, but the student is the most important aspect of teaching. They are why you should teach.

What accomplishments are you most proud of? 

I like to say that in my teaching career, I have taught over 8,000 different students and each one of them has become a part of me forever. That is what I am the most proud of ... how many students I’ve touched and how many of them might have benefitted from our experience together.

What’s your favorite activity outside of school? 

I love to travel and photography. I am very much a novice photographer but love to visit new places and come back with tons of photographs.

Who’s been the biggest influence in your life and why? 

My grandfather. I am fortunate to have had a relationship with him before his passing. He taught me how to be a man and to work hard at everything I do.

How do you relax and unwind? 

I garden and I am a very accomplished cook. All of those activities relax me and unwind.

What’s something people don’t know about you? 

I guess few know of my love of poetry, theater and the arts.

What would you be if you weren’t a teacher? 

I’m actually considering starting up a business to help kids find the right college for them and also possibly working as a teacher’s aide.

How would your family describe you? 

I would guess they would describe me as big-hearted, hard-headed, driven and passionate about my causes.