By JACQUI L. HERSHBERGER
Memories abound for Geri Knisely from her 30 years of teaching and being involved at Dalton High School. She could even say they were “Unforgettable.”
In fact, once she and the student council made a huge painted backdrop for the Homecoming Queen and her court. In gigantic letters, they wrote “Unforgetable,” not realizing it was spelled incorrectly. A day or two after it was all over, another teacher finally mentioned the misspelling.
In a recent phone interview, Knisely laughed and said, “How did no one notice or tell me?!”
The family and consumer science teacher, called home economics (home ec) during some of her career, taught students everything from baking and sports nutrition to how to run a preschool.
Actually, some of the current teachers at DHS—Mr. McFarren and Mr. Stutz—both attended the preschool she ran with the high school students. They would take the little kids outside and read, play games, and have snacks. There used to be a pretty tree behind the school where they would go to. If it had rained, water would collect in what she called ‘Knisely Lake.’
When Knisely was in high school, she was actively involved at Cloverleaf with the home economics program and was a state officer for her school’s Future Homemakers of America. After graduating, she attended Ashland College and graduated a semester early in January 1970.
When her Dad found out about a position opening at Dalton for her specialty, she applied and got the job. At the time, the position was split between Knisely and Bonnie Temple. At first, she lived in Seville and drove back and forth. Later on, she rented out a room in what is now the Administration Building.
Knisely has many fond memories from her years of teaching.
“My students worked hard for me!” she said.
They did community projects, banquets, and floats in the Christmas parade. Because of the kinds of activities they did, she said, “My classes were like the family part of the school.”
One of the classes she taught, which discussed marriage and family life, actually ended up with three of the couples getting married after high school. As she kept in contact with these former students, she found out that all three couples each had a girl for their first child and strangely, all named their daughters Amber.
When she started, it was a state requirement that she visit each student’s house. One girl admitted later to her that when Knisely stopped in at their house to see her older sister’s home, the younger sister hid under the bed.
Taking groups of students to Columbus for FHA and FCCLA yearly competitions was a highlight of her teaching experience. They would stay at a round hotel called Christopher Hotel and they would eat at the Kahiki Supper Club, a Polynesian themed restaurant shaped like a boat. Chris Kirkpatrick, a Dalton graduate and former member of popular boy band ‘N Sync, went along one of the times. Some of the trophies won may still be on display at the school.
In a recent phone interview, she laughed as she said, “Another year, I was in charge of decorating for prom, and all the crepe paper, which was meant to hang up high, shriveled up right around head height.”
When she taught a foreign foods class, she had chairs set up like the students were going on an airplane to other countries. She even had air sickness bags (barf bags) at each seat.
One year around Christmas, she made hard tack candy with her class. She wore glue-on fingernails and one of them melted off into the candy. Knisely remembers the look of horror on one of her student’s faces who didn’t realize it was a fake nail.
At the end of her 30 years at Dalton, fellow teacher Robin Evans-DelCiappo and high school secretary, Sharon Kuhlins, were both expecting, so she subbed for them while they were on maternity leave.
Starting in 2001, she subbed for 18 years simply because, “I liked it,” she said.
Teacher Jodi Augspurger convinced her to help at Dalton Elementary. One time, she was in charge of fifth graders for a week while the sixth graders were at Camp Wanake.
“It was a long week,” she said.
While partially retired, she had a direct sales jewelry business and earned trips to Hawaii, Europe, and Puerto Rico.
Knisely’s husband passed away in 2014. Since fully retiring two years ago, she lives in Florida seven months out of the year to maintain her residency. Her summers are spent at Prairie Lane Lake Park in Wayne County. In Florida, she helps two different animal rescues—All Kitty Corner and Moonracers. She helps with planning events and fundraising, takes animals to events, and helps clean cat cages and shelters. Knisely grew up with dogs but hasn’t owned a dog in adulthood and has instead had various cats.
Knisely actually had a mild case of COVID this past year. Thankfully, all the people she was around tested negative for the sickness that she’s “sad and concerned about.” But she has hope for the new year, quoting a friend who said, “Hope and fun for 21!”
In thinking back to her time teaching, Knisely remembers that Dalton was a “little utopia. There were the same problems as in other bigger schools, but they were less severe.” She liked the community aspect and that it seemed that everyone was related, or knew what everyone else was up to.
“I worked with some really fabulous teachers and graduates going out into the world.” In closing, Knisely said, “Life is too short to argue about some things. Live everyday like it’s your last because it could be. Don’t take anything for granted. Enjoy your days. Keep the faith.”
Knisely’s students learned life skills that they could use in everyday life, and enjoyed a teacher that still remembers her unforgettable time with them.