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Hubble Elementary bids farewell to over 80 years of teaching experience


Hubble Elementary is preparing for an enormous shift in staffing as long-time educators Tracy Gray, Amber Hill, and Athena Neptune bid the district farewell. With 83 years of combined experience at the school, the district will sorely miss the teachers that helped to keep Hubble on the cutting edge of education, and impacted thousands of young Marshfield students. 

Tracy Gray is leaving the district after 31 years of teaching, all at Hubble Elementary. After graduating from Drury with her Masters, Gray became a student teacher at Hubble before taking a job here as the second grade teacher in 1992.

“For 31 years, this has been my home away from home,” Gray explained. “There is nowhere else I could have imagined having a teaching career. I will miss every single person in this building. We truly are a family.”

After spending five years as a second grade teacher, Gray helped to start up the Explorer Team with Jennifer Ahrens. The Explorer Team was a multi-age class that started in 1997 which combined first and seconds graders into a single classroom. The Explorer Team was one of many different programs implemented by Hubble that kept the school up to date with modern teaching standards, keeping Marshfield students competitive in academics for years to come. 

“This building has never been status quo,” giggled Gray. “Hubble has always been on the cutting edge and it’s been an honor for Amber, Athena and I to all be here for that. We’ve done a lot of keeping up with research based practices and worked hard to incorporate those into the culture of our building… we are lifelong learners. Always continually wanting to do what’s best for kids.”

Gray has spent her career teaching in the same building she attended school in as a child. A full believer in the quality of a Marshfield education, both of Gray’s children also attended and graduated from the district.

“They’re both at Drury now, John is in graduate school and Annie is a junior,” she said. “But we’ve always been Bluejays. I plan on coming back to Hubble as a substitute teacher or something along those lines.”

Amber Hill is wrapping up a 29-year career of teaching second grade, Reading Recovery, and three years as instructional coach at Hubble Elementary. After spending two years at Plato, Hill came to Marshfield in 1994.

“When we all started here, there was no air conditioning in the building,” Amber said as the group chuckled. “There weren’t phones in the rooms, no televisions, no iPads. It was a totally different time. In August and September we would have big fans rolled into the rooms because it was so hot.”

“The year I started, the first few weeks we were out of school every afternoon because it was so hot,” Neptune added.

Hiring on as a second grade teacher, Hill helped push the boundaries for elementary education over a career spanning nearly three decades. Hill would then move into Reading Recovery, a first grade intervention program which helps to prevent any student from falling behind due to their reading skills. By intervening at a young age with one-on-one assistance, Reading Recovery has helped countless students remain on pace in their education. 

“Our goal has always been to do what is best for the kids,” Hill said as she held back tears. “That’s what we have fought so hard for and poured our lives into.”

Hill had two children who attended and graduated from Marshfield Schools, one of which is now teaching third grade across the street at Webster Elementary.

“Ever since Bailee was at Hubble, she started to want to be a teacher,” Hill boasted. “She had Jana Greenfield as a teacher and when she would get home, she would literally mimic everything Jana did. She had an easel marker board and it’s been so fulfilling to see her come into her own as a teacher. It makes me proud to see her serving this same community that has meant so much to me.”

Athena Neptune is leaving Hubble as well, having spent 23 years in the district as the Physical Education teacher. Neptune is a Couch, Mo. native who received her teaching certification in Kansas City, she leaves a permanent mark on the Physical Education department that she ran at Hubble for so many years.

“There is nothing better than a kid learning to skip, jump, or catch a ball,” Neptune said. “The brightness on their faces when they learn to do something is very rewarding.”

Neptune has many fond memories from the two plus decades spent at the school, including the annual Field Day, second grade read-ins and having her own children in class. Like Hill and Gray, Coach Neptune also helped push educational requirements for her field.

As technology becomes more prevalent in our everyday lives, more and more youth are glued to screens and playing a lot of video games.

“Motor skills are declining,” she said. “Some kids will come into Hubble and won’t even be able to hold a pair of scissors or a pencil, so it’s very important that they learn these fine motor skills through Physical Education.”

The shared focus on new research and practices is what made these three teachers, and their students, so successful over the years.

When asked what their favorite part of their time at Hubble was, all three responded similarly to Gray. “Just the children coming in,” she smiled. “That’s what we do it for.”


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