Jeanette Galle is proof life can take some pretty great unexpected turns when you’re least expecting them.
“I didn’t have a plan–I just wanted to learn as much as I could,” is a statement of Jeanette’s that has served her well.
From backpacking through Portugal, to living in Israel for a short time, she has always taken full advantage of life’s opportunities as they’ve presented themselves.
Growing up in the small mining town of Crumlin in South Wales in the United Kingdom, it was likely Jeanette Roach never envisioned she would be retiring as Jeanette Galle, a special education teacher in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, United States of America.
“When I told my family I was coming to Darlington, Wisconsin, we couldn’t even find it on the map. My brother had to go to the library. This was pre-internet you know,” she laughed.
Always valuing education, she earned her degree in history, geography, and social studies from the University of London.
Working as an Assistant Head of House, which resembles a guidance counselor here in the United States, in a huge downtown London 6th-12th grade school, she applied for the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Program and was accepted.
“I wanted to come to the United States to see what the education system was like,” she said.
She was one of only seven from Britain accepted in 1982. While the other six went to much larger cities, Jeanette learned her new home would be in rural Darlington, Wisconsin as one of their social studies teachers, Jeanne Tierney, was accepted as well. The two would trade places.
After her three months as a Redbird, she returned to the UK, but maintained close ties with her new friends, including the Galle family.
Joe and Margaret both worked at the school and she would come back to visit, eventually meeting Joe’s brother, Gary, getting to know each other over spaghetti dinners.
In 1985, she returned permanently and the two were married.
Her United States teaching career began at Platteville middle and high schools as a history and world cultures teacher. She also went back to school to obtain her Master’s in emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities.
While raising two young daughters, Katie and Mari, who would both go on to graduate from MPHS, she taught at Highland for five years in history and special education and then made her way to Mineral Point in 1996. Minus one year where she taught in Dodgeville, she has been a Pointer ever since.
Over her career, she has seen many changes to special education.
“Services in special education have evolved since the 1980s when laws were enacted to protect students with special needs and inclusion began,” she said. “When I started, kids were bused to other districts that had programs if their home school didn’t. Now, most everyone is educated in their home district.”
Jeanette credits her husband, Gary, retired guidance counselor at Mineral Point, for helping to make great advances for the special education population, as well as the former administrative team of Ted Evans and Jeff Gruber.
“They did so much for special ed people,” she said. “However, they did it quietly. They made sure special ed students were fully included, including with the design plans for this building, and really set the tone for acceptance.”
Ironically, Jeanette’s current classroom was Gary’s office when he retired just a few years ago.
Jeanette is very active with the Redruth, Cornwall student exchange program. Her efforts with this group helped to earn her the recognition of Cousin Jenny of the Year by the Southwest Wisconsin Cornish Society. She also works very hard with the Mineral Point Community Chest for over 20 years.
She has big aspirations for the future of special education in Mineral Point.
“I hope the programs will remain strong–with all the changes of staff, I hope everyone will be provided with the resources they need to be successful.”
She is viewed as a veteran leader by many fellow staff members, but recognizes she couldn’t have achieved success alone.
“It takes a team–everyone has to be a part of the team,” she said. “The learning supporters (assistants) are trained and perform tasks that are not easy. We’ve had good support from administration. We’ve been fortunate to have stability–people have stayed; they know the children for years. Our students’ parents have also been wonderful. They come to meetings and want only the best for their children. All of this only works if you have everyone working together.”
“Only the best is good enough for every child,” she added. “We worked to raise the bar with the goal for every student to work or go to college after graduation. This made me most proud.”
Her Welsh accent will surely be missed by many in the hallways, and she will miss teaching as well.
“Every day I came to school was a gift.”
(Thanks to Mari Galle for submission of the family photos.)