In his 40th year at USD 382, Arlam Wamhoff is retiring from a job that didn’t exist at the beginning of his career. Hired in 1971 to teach government at Pratt High School, he and longtime USD 382 educator Carolyn Schoen developed a program for gifted students following a state mandate.


In his 40th year at USD 382, Arlam Wamhoff is retiring from a job that didn’t exist at the beginning of his career. Hired in 1971 to teach government at Pratt High School, he and longtime USD 382 educator Carolyn Schoen developed a program for gifted students following a state mandate.
It’s been a great job — he gets to work with smart, motivated kids, and he estimates in the last 31 years he’s given only a couple of detentions. He thinks he would have retired much earlier if he were still teaching government.
Part of special education, the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program serves about the top three percent of students at Liberty Middle School and Pratt High, as well as another three to five percent designated as Ripple students.
Like any special education program, gifted ed requires a lot of paperwork — Wamhoff won’t miss that, he’s quick to say, although it’s easier now with a computer.
The goal from the very beginning was to provide academic challenges to students who weren’t getting that in their regular classrooms. Wamhoff focuses on higher level thinking skills and divergent thinking and helps the students improve their research skills.
A visitor in the classroom might see him doing direct teaching, especially at the beginning of the year, but they would be as likely to see a handful of students going about their own projects with his guidance. That’s the goal — that they become self-directed learners.
He has taught a popular seminar called “You Be the Judge,” in which students read about real teenagers who have gotten into trouble. He provides some background materials and asks the kids to decide how the offender should be sentenced. Comparison with actual court outcomes provides some good discussion.
In the early 1980s, Wamhoff took middle school students on a two-day trip to Topeka to watch the Legislature in action and meet their legislators. One year, they also met with Supreme Court Justice Harold Herd, from Coldwater.  The culminating activity for a seminar on terrorism in the late ’90s was a visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, built on the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building attacked by terrorists in 1995. Part of the destruction remains in the memorial, and empty chairs stand for the lives lost in the bombing. It was a moving experience, Wamhoff said.
Closer to home, Wamhoff has been the director of contests. Math Strategies, for all seventh and eighth graders who want to enter, was started at the suggestion of then-seventh grader Craig Dietz. Every year about 40 teams of four students each enter. They have fun with it — “it’s cool to be smart, for at least a day,” he said. Whether by chance or by design, the questions developed by high school GATE students fit well with state math standards.
High school students also help run Brainstorm contests for the middle schoolers every year.
The Pratt district puts a greater emphasis on meeting the needs of gifted students than in the past, Wamhoff said, with honors classes and the opportunity to test out of classes and accelerate progress through requirements.
The district is currently searching for a replacement for Wamhoff. He plans to do some remodeling on his house, go to more K-State games, on the road and in Manhattan (Go Cats!!!) and do some additional travel.