Playing catch up with Tonnies and Taber

English teacher Bobby Tonnies and English teacher Sarah Taber have recently returned to the STA community after being gone for a year or more. The Dart looks into where they have been these past few years.


Mr. Tonnies, left, poses with Ms. Taber Sep. 11. Both teachers returned this year after leaving STA. photo by Gabrielle Pesek

by Gabrielle Pesek, Writer

When was the last year you worked at STA, and what did you teach?
Tonnies: “It would’ve been the 2015-16 school year. I was teaching Gospels and Christology, Theology and Media and World Faiths.”

Taber: “The year 2013. I taught World Literature and junior American Literature.”

Where were you during your time away?
Tonnies: “My wife and I were living in Lawrence. She was finishing her graduate degree. We were there for two years, so I was still working here the first year and commuting there. I was not a fan of the long commute. So the second year we were moving back here to Kansas City in February, in the winter, and now we live in Waldo.”

Taber: “I taught at Pembroke Hill [High School]. There I taught English for grades 9, 10 and 12. In grade 12 we do semester elects so I did a philosophy and literature elective there.”

What did you miss most about STA?
Tonnies: “I missed a lot of things. Probably more than anything I missed interactions with students. Just the day to day, seeing how students are doing and what’s going on in their life. Kind of that daily check in, and it builds into that relationship between student and teacher. I just missed that, and it was so hard going a whole year without it. I had some check ins from students who would email me updates and stuff, which was really nice. But, for the most part, it was like, ‘Oh I wonder how that student is doing.’ Just sitting here not knowing was so sad.”

Taber: “I definitely missed the all-girl component. I think that’s very special. I think I also missed the really cool balance that you guys accomplish here between the pursuit of truth in academia and intelligence in seeking truth and the commitment to service in the larger community. I think that balance is something that not many schools achieve. I think that it’s kind of what we are missing in a lot of institutions, so I really missed it.”

What brought you back here to STA?
Tonnies: “I missed teaching a lot. If I wasn’t already totally sure my vocation was to teach, a year off completely validated it. I wanted to get back in the classroom. Just like when I originally applied to St. Teresa’s there were a lot of schools you can apply to in English or theology. St. Teresa’s was my first choice far and away. I asked and inquired if there were any positions open, and it was a done deal from there.”

Taber: “I also think I reached a point in my career where I see what I am doing less as a job now and more as a career. So I think when I was younger, and even up to where I first worked at STA, I thought about teaching jobs that I took. ‘What does the job entail and how do I like it?’ But then I kind of had this shift where I started thinking about it more as a career. I realized that every job has things that I am not going to like, but ultimately if you view what you’re doing as a career and accept those things that you don’t like, but rather see the larger benefit of being in a certain institution for what fit it offers you and what fit you offer it that there’s a greater award on both end. I also realized that the grass isn’t always greener. I think in some ways I was always searching for what I thought was an ultimate job, but I realized now that it’s more important to find contentment with a career.”

What’s a favorite funny story or memory of yours that was made at STA?
Tonnies: “There are so many. Probably in Theology and Media, there would be a surprise day during the semester where they would decide to give up their phone for two weeks or take the final. They wouldn’t know what day it was. I remember the last semester I taught it, students were in such an unbelievable panic and chaos collectively when I pulled out the box that the phone goes in. It was such just a funny environment. There was a healthy amount of anxiety about it, and a lot of courage because it was a really hard thing to do. There was a lot of collective moral support like, ‘guys we can do this, we can do this’, and it was outrageous. It was everything from like a student on the verge of tears like ‘I can’t believe we’re going to say goodbye to Instagram for two weeks’ to students who were overjoyed and empowering one another for making the decision. I don’t know why, but that image just sits with me. It was cool, funny and all sorts of emotions in that moment.”

Taber: “In my advisory, before I had Mary Hart, and now I have her sister Maggie Hart in my advisory. I would always see Mary on my drive to STA driving this ridiculously beat up van, named Babe, and it’s a legend in her family. So it became our mascot for our advisory. We took a photo with it, and everybody climbed on top of and in the van and the ceiling was falling down. Then we came back inside, and we had left the windows down and it rained, and it got all wet. We felt so bad because it was already falling apart as it is. I was so shocked when I came back to STA and I asked Maggie about the van. She said, ‘Oh yeah! I’m still driving it,’ as if it’s no big deal. It has literally got to be on its last legs by now, so I told the advisory we have to get a photo with the van.”