The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

June 9, 2014

Beloved sixth-grade teacher bids farewell

On May 30, Eileen Byte spent her last day working with students after 36 years as a teacher.

Byte said she has been overwhelmed by the response to her retirement, from both students and coworkers. She found out that some of her students went home and cried after they heard the news because they thought she was leaving right away instead of after the school year ended. A father even called to let her know his fifth-grade daughter was upset she couldn’t have Byte for sixth grade — her two older brothers and mother all had Byte, and the girl wanted to continue the family tradition.

Byte said the work philosophy she has lived by is one she tries to instill in her students.

“Do what you love — that’s what I tell my kids,” she said. “Do what you want to do and do it every day, and then you won’t regret a moment of it. And I don’t.”

She got interested in becoming a teacher at home because her parents, Wayne and Mary Roof, always made sure education came first. Both of her sisters also went into education. One of them, Linda Harlan, teaches at Central Elementary in Centerville.

Byte also was inspired by Merle Lewis, her fourth-grade teacher in Unionville, Mo.

“She never let me give up,” Byte said. “She still promotes education and cares about her kids and is there for every class reunion.”

Byte earned a bachelor of science in education degree from Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University) and a master’s degree from Drake University. She taught fourth grade in Putnam County for three years before coming to Centerville where she taught Title 1 reading for one year. Since then she has taught sixth grade.

Byte was awarded both major teaching awards in the Centerville district, the Mishler Award for the 1994–1995 school year and the Jackson Masonic Lodge No. 42 A.F. and A.M. award in 1995.

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