50 years later, teacher still influences students’ lives

As a home economics teacher, Jan Bussard taught her students that what's on the inside of a garment is just as important as what's on the outside. Perhaps back in the mid-1950s she was talking only literally, trying to teach the youngsters at Spring Lake Junior High the importance of strong stitches. But three of Bussard's former students know now that their beloved teacher was laying a pattern of wisdom that they carry with them today - more than a half-century later.
Marie Havenga
Sep 22, 2011

“She gave us confidence,” said Sue (Martin) Blakey, now of Muskegon. “She said, ‘You can make an apple pie — now go home and do it.’ These are lifelong lessons.”

Blakey, along with former classmates Sue (Rudder) Zadvinskis and Rachel (Baker) Calderon, reunited with Bussard during a Wednesday luncheon at Two Tonys Taverna Grille in Spring Lake. The former students laughed about old times — reminiscing about cooking lessons and stitches in time.

They call her Jan now, at Brussard’s insistence. But to them, she will always be Mrs. Bussard — the one who set the bar high, the one who believed in them, the one who helped them learn to believe in themselves.

When Blakey, Zadvinskis and Calderon left junior high, they attended Grand Haven High School. There was no Spring Lake secondary school at that time.

Blakey graduated in 1961; Zadvinskis and Calderon a year later. All three went on to become teachers.

Wednesday afternoon, the fabric of the past blended seamlessly with the fabric of the present. They spoke of handcrafting dish towels, their sewing class fashion show and the former superintendent (Jay Holmes, namesake of Holmes Elementary School) who hired Bussard in an era when it was more comfortable for women to stay at home.

Bussard moved to Spring Lake from Detroit in the 1950s after her husband, James, graduated from law school. He practiced law in Grand Haven for 52 years.

“I needed to work — both for financial and emotional reasons,” said Bussard, who learned sewing from her mother, who was the seamstress for the Blodgett family in Grand Rapids and ran a sewing shop there. “I knew there was a home ec (teaching) job open at the junior high. I went to (Holmes) and told him I wanted the job. I said to him, ‘You’ll never be sorry.’”

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on GrandHavenTribune.com? Create a new account today to get started.