Senior Says | Volleyball team members take notes during visit with retired teacher

Members of the volleyball team (top from left to right, freshman Nohea Mahi, junior Emmy Wedgbury, sophomore Anisia Smith and ottom left to right senior Alayna Yates,and senior Kacia Brown recently picked up some wisdom from New Aldaya resident Dixie Unangst.

Editor’s Note: This story marks the first in a series we’re calling Senior Says, in which we interview some of the more senior citizens to pick up some of their tips for teens.

Dixie Unangst, a four-year resident of New Aldaya, sat down and chatted with the CFHS volleyball squad when they volunteered to play board games with the residents on Nov. 6. With the nickname “Trouble,” Unangst was surely a treat for the team to talk to. 

Unangst grew up as the daughter of two school teachers. Her dad, an orchestra and band teacher, taught her how to play the violin in the second grade. Carrying that hobby with her, Unangst played in the UNI orchestra as she too studied to become a teacher. Unangst then proceeded to teach for 15 years over the course of her life while being a stay-at-home mother when her children were growing up.

After retirement, Unangst proceeded to give piano lessons in Denver. When talking to the team, Unangst explained how one student’s family took interest in her violin. When picking up one of her students from a piano lesson, Unganst said that the “grandma” of the student asked to see her great grandfather’s violin, the one that she had learned to play and used all through college. When the woman asked, Unangst agreed to let her take the violin home to show their family, promising to bring it back the following day. 

Since that day about nine years ago Unangst said she’s never seen that violin again. “I’ve always wanted to run an ad in the Denver, Iowa, paper and say, ‘How’s my violin doing? Are you practicing it well?’” Unangst said. Still a jokester, Unganst laughed at the memory and the team joined in.

On top of being a piano teacher after retirement, Unangst said she would tutor students. Deeply invested in the overall well-being of her students, she said seeing their growth was a real treat. “I wanted them to succeed. To me, that was so important,” Unangst said. With a similar philosophy when she was teaching, Unangst said seeing students develop was always a thrill. “My favorite memory from teaching was how well students who had a hard time succeeded and applied what they learned. That was, I think, the most important,” Unangst said.

Remembering how her teachers taught her in high school, Unangst learned from poor example. “I learned by the way they taught there what should be done differently. Consequently, I really didn’t learn a lot in high school,” Unangst said.

Instead, with a very modern look on teaching, Unangst said that each child deserves to be educated like the independent thinker’s they are. “Every student, you will find out, is different. They think different, they do different, so you have to help them in different ways,” Unangst said. It’s not always easy though, the former teacher added. “I’ve been recognizing how they [students] are and what they do and everything and then you can work. It takes a lot of thought,” Unangst said.

Even though she disagrees with the way her former teachers taught her, Unangst does believe that students need to learn the old-fashioned way with paper and pen. “The computer, forget it. That’s all they do in the schools nowadays is do the computer,” Unangst said. “You never know what the world is gonna turn into, and if you [don’t] know how to write and talk right or whatever, then you’re lost.”

Sharing her advice with the senior volleyball players, Unangst said that the soon to be graduates still need to finish the year strong. “Sometimes when you’re seniors, you kind of cheat and do the amount of work you’re supposed to do just so you get done with it and it’s finished. Don’t do it that way,” Unangst said.

Leaving the volleyball team with one last bit of advice, Unangst reflected on some hardships she’s endured in her life, one of them being her vision. With 100 percent glaucoma in her right eye and 60 percent macular degeneration in her left, Unangst said life can be testing. Offering advice for the state bound volleyball team, Unganst said, “Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever give up. No matter what happens to you down the road, you stay with the Lord, and you don’t give up.”

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