Local teacher David Stinemetze just began his 46th year of teaching in the Arkansas City Public School District.
Stinemetze, a 1967 Arkansas City High School graduate, has taught both math and science during his tenure.
This year, he is teaching chemistry and honors biology.
He’s also previously taught calculus, physics and physical science.
“I’m very comfortable being a teacher,” Stinemetze said in an interview Aug. 17, the first day of the 2017-18 school year.
In his years of teaching, he has had an estimated total of 5,000 students come through his classroom — more than the number students currently enrolled at Cowley College and the 2016 population of Newkirk, Oklahoma, combined.
Teaching in the blood
Stinemetze’s career track is not all that surprising, considering his family history.
“Both of my parents were teachers,” he said.
His father taught chemistry, when he was needed to, and biology from 1954 to 1984.
His mother, who taught from 1959 to 1979 at Adams Elementary School, tutored second- and third-graders.
The only other career option he recalled in his family history was farming.
“I knew early on I wouldn’t be any good on the farm,” Stinemetze joked.
So, inspired by his parents, he determined in grade school that he would be a teacher.
In particular, he wanted to teach science.
Chemistry at first sight
One year, Stinemetze’s father was called upon to teach chemistry, he recalls.
“When I walked into the chemistry lab, that’s when I knew I wanted to teach chemistry,” Stinemetze said.
The lab fascinated him, with its bottles and beakers and test tubes. “I fell in love,” he said.
Math naturally fell into his line of study, too, because of its close connection to science.
Stinemetze earned his bachelor’s degree from Southwestern College in Winfield, followed by his master’s degree in chemistry from Emporia State University.
He attended Wichita State University for a year to study engineering and physics.
“If there were one thing that I could change … I might go ahead and find a way to finish my doctorate,” Stinemetze said.
Stinemetze family affair
When Stinemetze finished college, his dream job opened up — right back at home.
In 1972, he started teaching at the junior high school in Ark City, where he continued to teach until 1976.
After that, Stinemetze joined his father in the science department at the high school.
“There were three of us teaching in the district at the time,” he recalled fondly.
Stinemetze taught at the high school alongside his father for eight years.
Stinemetze said he recalls his students more than any particular events that he has experienced while teaching. “I’ve had quite a large number of outstanding students over the years that I’ve had the privilege to teach,” he said.
Many of his students have become physicians or engineers.
“It is not unusual to have two or three Ark City grads in medical school at any given time,” Stinemetze said.
He has made strong impressions on his students, as well. Some of them have been out of high school for years or even decades, yet still retain fond memories of time spent in his classroom, lessons he instilled or jokes he played.
Pair of pranks
Two of them, both City of Arkansas City employees, shared their memories Aug. 17 after USD 470 posted a Facebook message to congratulate Stinemetze.
Matt Metzinger, information technology manager for the city, hinted at a memory of an explosive accident … or was it?
“BOOM! You would have thought a pipe burst somewhere in the high school … (or) some kid was pulling a prank,” he said.
“No, just another day in Mr. Stinemetze’s chemistry class. Indeed, the biggest kid in the room stood tall with glasses and would be grinning from ear to ear. David Stinemetze is that kid (pulling a prank), young at heart and full of enthusiasm for science … even if it means letting a compound react on the podium.”
Public Information Officer Andrew Lawson relayed a similar, equally mischievous memory.
“I remember one time when Mr. Stinemetze had all of us hold hands, while the students on the end touched wires connected to a hand-crank electric generator,” he said. “The resulting conductivity produced a slightly unsettling, but not painful sensation, somewhat like a large charge of static electricity.
“Of course, once we all got used to it, he just couldn’t resist turning that crank extra quickly one time. The resulting jolt had us all jumping and yelping! I took two things away from that incident: I never want to experience actual electrocution, and I’ll never forget the devious grin on his face as he chuckled at our reactions.”
“But in all seriousness,” Lawson added, “Mr. Stinemetze probably was the best and most informative teacher I had in public school. He taught us more calculus in physics class than we probably ever learned in calculus class. Not only was he a wonderful chemistry and physics teacher, but he prepared us for the real world. He was demanding, but fair, and he took time out to teach us life lessons like how to use compound interest to build wealth. He did it because he cared about us.”
When this school year concludes, there will have been a total of 100 years of Stinemetzes teaching in Arkansas City.
David Stinemetze said he has no plans to retire soon, either, unless his circumstances were to change in some way.
“I enjoy my work. It’s a passion for me,” he said. “(But) I’m not saying I never will (retire).”