TEACHER Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas

TEACHER Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas


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Carol Jean Wehrwein, Centauri High School, La Jara, CO
Carol Jean Wehrwein, Centauri High School, La Jara, CO

For each of four years, she commuted to La Jara's Centauri High School and taught simultaneously: Third Year English, Journalism I & II (including producing the school newspaper and yearbook), Speech/Drama (including producing the annual senior play).

MEMORIES OF CAROL JEAN WEHRWEIN THOMAS BY WALTER MARES (8th grader, brother of June Mares, a student in Carol's Journalism class, and for years, Managing Editor, now retired, of the award wining "Copper Era," a weekly in southeastern Arizona.)

For what it is worth, I consider myself a living memorial to Carol. She is the root of my many accomplishments in the world of journalism. By that I mean, for one thing, never having written anything that was not true. Never have I written anything with malice. That is one of the most important things I learned from Carol. My sister, June, Class of '68, sends her condolences and is spreading word to some of her classmates. 
Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas (1929-2017) Monte Vista CO on a Sunday, 1967
Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas (1929-2017) Monte Vista CO on a Sunday, 1967


Mrs. Carol Thomas was the educator who prepared me the most for my future career as a teacher, though at the time I had no idea that was my calling. She was a perfect example of a passionate teacher who worked energetically to bring out the best in her students. Even as a high school student, I was impressed that she taught five different classes, all with different preparations necessary. I was fortunate to have her as my teacher for English, speech, drama and journalism. I learned to be comfortable speaking in public (and of course with good enunciation) and to not be afraid of the microphone. I learned how to perform in theatrical productions and also how to direct them. This is something I later came to do a lot during my teaching career, as I became a children’s playwright. I wrote and directed my own original musical productions over many years. I also learned in her English class about important events that contributed to our history in the United States, as she used these topics as a springboard for various assignments in her class. I learned her lessons well, and my own students benefited from my having had her for a teacher at such an important time in my life. Something remarkable about Mrs. Thomas, is that she did not quit being my teacher when our ways parted in Colorado. She continued to keep in touch with me, and sometimes over many years, would send me clippings and articles of interest to me. She never quit being my teacher. Whenever asked, who was my favorite teacher, I always say with ease, “Carol Thomas.” Her mark is upon me. 
Dolores Valdez de Pong, student of Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas
Dolores Valdez de Pong, student of Carol Jean Wehrwein Thomas

Dolores retired at the end of the school year, May 2012. Dolores was a student of Carol Jean (Wehrwein) Thomas during her Junior and Senior Years (1966-1968) at Centauri High School, La Jara, Colorado. In her long teaching career, Dolores received many awards, including "New Mexico Teacher of the Year." On that particular occasion, when asked to name the teacher most influential in her preparation to teach, Delores responded, "Carol Jean (Wehwein) Thomas."

"The New Mexican," Santa Fe, NM, 30 Apr 2012, p. 1:

"Final curtain: Dolores Valdez de Pong plans to end 37-year teaching career at Carlos Gilbert Elementary School

By Robert Nott, The New Mexican.

'Raindrops' fell on stage in the auditorium of Carlos Gilbert Elementary School on Friday afternoon, but Dolores Valdez de Pong did not shed the expected teardrops at the same time--even though she was watching as her final school theater production, 'Spring Has Sprung,' came to an end.

Valdez de Pong is retiring this May after nearly 37 years of teaching at Carlos Gilbert. She taught third grade for 14 years, second grade for 21 years and first grade for the last two years.

Since day one, she's involved art, theater and music in her curriculum, often accompanying her original productions by playing the piano -- the same piano she discovered in the corner of the Carlos Gilbert gym back in December 1975, when it all started.

She recalled standing in the back corner of that gym, when the district first hired her, watching as students performed the school's holiday play.

'I thought to myself,' "Gosh, I'm going to be part of this school?" I never dreamed it would turn into a 37-year career.'

The Colorado native still remembers being inspired by the actions of one of her high school teachers, Carol Jean (Wehrwein) Thomas, who included theater in all of her lesson plans.

'What I like about drama is it develops an esprit de corps in the classroom, where every student works together,' Valdez de Pong said Friday, after the final curtain had come down on her last show. 'With a play, you can integrate a lot of different curriculum topics into the classroom. It's a fun way to get concepts across.' . . .

The 'farmer' introduced the show, and the 'rainbow' and the 'flowers' and the 'ants' and the 'worms' and the 'clouds' and the 'raindrops' all played their parts to perfection, engaging in song, dance and comedy. The cast presented Valdez de Pong with a bouquet of flowers at the end. She fought giving in to the tears. . . ."  
'life in Los Sauces' by Dolores Valdez de Pong and her mother
"life in Los Sauces" by Dolores Valdez de Pong and her mother

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