A familiar face from the classroom still remembered
There is a special bird who has made an impact in his community for close to 40 years, and his name is not Big Bird.
His name is Loony. And anyone who was lucky enough to have Mrs. Arlyce Holland as a first grade teacher at Elmore elementary or Blue Earth Area may know exactly who we are talking about.
In her 30 years of teaching for local school districts, Arlyce Holland made it a point to bring fun and excitement to her classroom every day using unconventional methods of teaching. And that unconventional method? Puppets.
“I had a monkey, a fox, an alligator, a dog each one had a specific task to help students with what was going on in the classroom,” says Holland. “Like my monkey would help with math. He had a squeaker in his mouth so he would help squeak the right answer to students, or help them with a specific number of squeaks.”
Holland says she is amazed at how many students still come up to her and tell her they remember her puppets in her classroom.
“It seems the students would learn more from the puppets than they would from Mrs. Holland,” laughs the now retired teacher. “Better a puppet than not at all. I am just so glad that these students who remember the puppets had good memories of school. That is so important.”
The Elmore native says she remembers going to school in Elmore and had two teachers who, like her students, had made a positive impact on her.
“I remember having Gertrude Wise for second and third grade and Hattie Manther for fourth and fifth grade,” she says. “Both of those women were instrumental in my love for teaching. They created such good, happy memories for me.”
It is no wonder so many local residents, now all grown up, recall Mrs. Holland’s classwork with happy recall.
More often than not, however, it is Loony, specifically, whom past students remember the most. And that, Holland says, probably has something to do with Loony’s inability to listen or pay attention in the classroom.
Loony the bird helped with basic manners and worked hard on helping with good listening skills in the classroom.
“Whenever we had a hard time listening to directions, Loony would help out by getting the directions completely wrong,” says Holland. “Loony’s misdirections helped the students with the proper directions. He also made it a point to mention when something not-nice was said, and how we can work on saying nicer things.”
Loony also had a hand at releasing the students at the end of the day.
“He would say, ‘everyone who wore pajamas to school can be excused,'” recalls Holland. “And of course, no one wore pajamas to school, but it got a great chuckle from the students and it was a reassurance that my students left my classroom with a smile on their face or happiness in their heart. They would pet them and say goodbye until the next time Loony would come out.”
Holland says there was something incredible happening to her students when she used puppets in her classroom and is still somewhat in awe of what an inanimate puppet can do for a child.
“When the puppets were teaching, Mrs. Holland was not there it was like these puppets were their very own entity, and the students were able to connect more, and learn more from the puppets rather than a regular human teacher,” she says. “It’s just really interesting and it made all the difference for some students when it came to learning.”
Compassion was something not only all of Holland’s puppets had, but was something Holland carried on her sleeve with her everyday to her classroom.
“You never know what adversities your students are facing outside of the classroom,” she says. “As a teacher, at any level or age group, it’s important to remember that compassion for every student, even on their not-so-best days.”
Mrs. Holland has been retired from being a teacher for a few years now, and enjoys spending time with her husband, Roger, playing pickle ball at the Faribault County Fitness Center, and has been playing the organ at East Chain Lutheran for the past 60 years.
She has also brought her gift of teaching to Interfaith Caregivers, where she has worked for the last 20 years. And Loony made his appearances during Interfaith training sessions, too.
“It just makes droll information you have to retain a little more fun and exciting,” she says.
For many years, this creative, inventive teacher has been inspiring kindness, courage, manners, and just a dash of silliness to many area students who now have children of their own.
And though Loony may be the name those former students remember, it is Arlyce Holland who has made a positive, permanent impact on so many.