By Cylee Drake
“Hello My Lovelies,” a common phrase to start out the day in Mrs. Stancell’s classroom. If you have had Mrs. Stancell as a teacher in the past, you already know what comes next: “O Captain, My Captain.”
Over my high school career, I was given the privilege of being a student of Mrs. Stancell many times as well as being given the opportunity to see just what makes Mrs. Stancell so spectacular.
Many students know the name Mrs. Stancell, but they do not get to know the actual person behind the name. They don’t get to see the strong independent women who rules the school from the second floor. Mrs. Stancell is currently the Mathematics Chair at MCHS as well as the head coach for our high school girls track team and the head coach for our junior high cross country team. She is also one of the class sponsors for the Class of 2019. You can even find her at football games in the announcers box.
Mrs. Stancell makes an impact everywhere she goes, but where exactly did she come from? Mrs. Stancell grew up in Lamar, MO and went to school there from K-12. She did not remember ever dreaming of doing anything other than being an artist in elementary school, but in 11th grade, teaching mathematics caught her attention and never let go.
“Teaching was the only job I ever desired, especially math,” Mrs. Stancell said. “I have never once wavered from that.”
Growing up, Mrs. Stancell lived a pretty impoverished life raised by a single mom. She looked at her teachers as some of the best role models she had.
“They were faithful, married people with loving families that lived in comfortable homes…I yearned for that.” Stancell said. “I drew on my strengths: mathematics, athletics, and a loud voice. I was also a passionate person that wanted to help others that felt the way I did growing up.”
Mrs. Stancell became a coach as early as high school when she helped coach the swim team. Since then, she has never stopped. Coaching sports wasn’t her only interest that started in high school. She was also a strong member of a math team that competed 6 times a year for a cumulative score and won every year against very many teams.
After high school, she attended Pittsburg State University to further her education. Her reason for choosing PSU was because it was close, and she had a high school boyfriend at the time. At PSU Mrs. Stancell met her “boyfriend” Bruce Stancell, who she would later work alongside for many years. Mrs. Stancell’s first three years of teaching were in Clinton, MO where she taught junior high students. Mr. Stancell taught science and Mrs. Stancell taught math.
“I knew if a little girl came to my class crying that she had just come from [Mr. Stancell’s] class.” Mrs. Stancell said. “He had to learn how to deal with JH girls.”
Mrs. Stancell is currently in her 31st year teaching. During her first five years in the McDonald County school district, she taught junior high science at Noel, and for the last 23, she has taught math here at McDonald County High School.
Anyone who knows Mrs. Stancell also knows about her intense love for mathematics, so it is only fitting to have a favorite number.
When asked what her favorite number was Mrs. Stancell said, “41… It’s my boyfriend’s football number! Seriously though… I like numbers whose prime factorization has powers in it. So, on my birthday I will be 53… a dang prime… so I will be sad for a year. I will be pumped and have t-shirts made when I turn 64 and 81, 2^6 and 3^4 respectively. Also, I love ‘The Most Beautiful Equation,’ sometimes called ‘God’s Equation.’”
Not only does Mrs. Stancell have a passion for teaching mathematics, but she also has a passion for the history of mathematics. If she had the choice to study under one great philosopher/mathematician, she would have a tough time choosing just one.
“This is tough…there are so many,” Mrs. Stancell said. “Probably Gottfried Leibniz to see his development of calculus separate from Isaac Newton’s. Newton later took all credit and discredited Leibniz. I also like Euler for his prolific writings and contributions to notation. Persian mathematician al-Khwarizmi is considered the father of algebra which would be cool to meet. But, if I had to choose only one it would be Euclid. His book of Elements is very similar to the geometry taught today and is over 2300 years old! Nearly all of our theorems postulates were recorded by him!”
Mrs. Stancell stated that her favorite part of mathematics is “the way it governs the universe. Plato believed that God used geometry to build the universe… so do I. Pythagoras said ‘All is Number.’ But… the pure joy of completing a complicated proof or problem is ecstatic for me!”
According to Mrs. Stancell, her passion from math comes from good genetics and Mrs. Thomas, her first grade teacher. Mrs. Thomas had Mrs. Stancell sit in the back of the room in her own special place when she would finish her work early. She had special “math enrichment cards” that she flew through rapidly, so she never looked back. The athlete in her wanted to “win” every math and science test. This desire to win could’ve been found outside the classroom as well.
“I played basketball and track in HS and ran cross country and track my junior and senior years at PSU,” Stancell said. “They did not have it until my junior year and I was a walk-on”
Over the years being a teacher has taught Mrs. Stancell many valuable lessons, including patience and compassion.
“I try to see the good in kids and that is not always easy. I learn from students daily, some more than others. My daughter and my dog are both named after students. All were inquisitive with a great sense of humor. Two were brilliant red-heads and the other was my brother.”
Mrs. Stancell also learned that things come and go.
“In education we get on kicks and often invest time that would be more valuably spent teaching kids on time-consuming nonsense to make our school/district look good on paper. I cannot count the changes I have seen in 31 years that have come and gone. However, I still factor a polynomial the same and Euclid’s elements have remained virtually unchanged over 2 millennia! So has the ‘good book’ for that matter! How well a child’s grey matter will help them has nothing to do with how he/she acts, dresses, plays sports, who his/her parents are, who his/her friends are, etc. I have had way too many kids tell me that I was the first one that ‘got them’ and didn’t pre-judge them. This saddens me.”
As many already know, this year is Mrs. Stancell’s last year teaching at McDonald High School as she plans on retiring at the end of this year. However, she will be sticking around one more year on our coaching staff for track. Mrs. Stancell’s favorite memories are “finding ‘the ones’ that don’t know they are special.” She was told last May at a college graduation party for a student graduating from U of A with honors in electrical engineering that he owed it all to her because he knew he was smart but not that he could do ANYTHING.
“There have been 5-10 of these [gifted students] over the years,” Mrs. Stancell said. “I was one of those and maybe should have been pushed into something else. I have a soft spot for gifted kids, especially those that have been overlooked. Grades often don’t reflect intelligence.”
So what’s next for the Spectacular Mrs. Stancell? She will probably stay extremely busy.
“I have neglected my duties to my husband, kids, grandson, and self for far too many years. I look forward to being a wife, mom, Ma, and taking care of myself.”
She plans to go on many adventures. In the future, Mrs. Stancell hopes to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco, participate in at least 5 different 50-100 mile bike events, go see Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and the northern lights with her “boyfriend” Bruce, take her grand kids to Disney, kayak in the Florida keys, swim from The Rock, and so much more.
“I will miss teaching and coaching but it is time to be normal, at least as normal as Darbi can be.”
Mrs. Stancell ended our interview with some words of wisdom.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars! To fully live, have dreams and reachable goals. When they are reached, set higher ones. You are never too old for most goals, they just may be harder to obtain. Everything I have ever did that was worthwhile in my life was a struggle. However, I missed the struggle when it was gone! Don’t fear a struggle.”