Adair County is mourning the loss of area educator Steve McDermott this week. McDermott, a Greenfield native, was laid to rest Monday in his hometown's cemetery.
McDermott, 60, was most recently the superintendent of the Creston Community School District. He passed away soon after retiring from his position, ending a courageous battle he fought with cancer.
McDermott grew up attending school in Greenfield, where he graduated from high school in 1977. He grew up on a farm and he and his siblings showed hogs and cattle growing up. He was an athlete, a musician and an artist, as well.
After attending, Iowa State University, McDermott taught and coached at Prescott before he returned to Adair County the first time to teach art and coach a handful of sports at Bridgewater-Fontanelle.
Following time at other schools, McDermott returned to Adair County in 1994, becoming principal and curriculum director for B-F and Greenfield. Five years later, McDermott was appointed shared superintendent of Greenfield and B-F. He was instrumental in shepherding those two districts through consolidating into what is now Nodaway Valley.
Rose Grantham still teaches at Nodaway Valley Middle School in Fontanelle and Dan Dickinson is a retired educator who lives in Greenfield. Both worked very closely with McDermott in both of his times in area schools.
"Steve was my curriculum director starting in the fall of '94 at the junior high building in Fontanelle when we began whole grade sharing. He was a teacher's administrator. By that, I mean he knew he had a group of experienced educators and chose to include us in decision making that affected students and staff," Grantham said. "Unless I really messed up, I knew he would support me if there was an issue with a student and/or parent. We didn't always agree but he would respectfully listen to different points of view. Whatever the outcome, it was what would most benefit students and their learning."
Grantham also remembers McDermott because he lobbied for portable classrooms to be built when the middle school was irreparably damaged in a storm in the late '90s.
"As superintendent, he was a frequent visitor to our building and classrooms," Grantham added. "I always considered Steve my friend, and more than once, asked his advice after he left our district. I will miss him."
Dickinson had similar sentiments to share about McDermott, who was also a fellow teacher of his early in his career and was later his superintendent.
"I worked with Steve as a fellow teacher early in his career at Bridgewater-Fontanelle where he impressed me with his 'kids first' attitude with every child," Dickinson said. "Later as my administrator, I felt that Steve treated teachers with respect and listened to their ideas. He was family oriented and showed concern for his staff as people, not just as employees."
McDermott's impact was also felt by his students, not just his colleagues. State representative, Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II of Greenfield, and Freedom Rock muralist, paid his respect to his late art teacher by drawing a tribute to McDermott last week. Because McDermott graduated a Greenfield Tiger but had impacts on B-F and Creston too, Sorensen's drawing has a headstone that reads "McDermott," with the "C" being Creston's logo, which McDermott designed. Also in the drawing, leaning against the headstone, are a Tiger, Wolverine and B-F Panther.
"He was my first art teacher in elementary and one of my first art influences. He was an incredible man and teacher. I was always amazed by his talent," Sorensen said. "I remember the big B-F Panther mascot he painted in our gym in Fontanelle. I used to stare at that in amazement. My elementary, junior high and high school art teachers all had a huge impact on my life and Mr. McDermott was the start of it all. I know all of southwest Iowa is mourning this loss."
The Nodaway Valley CSD put a tribute on its Facebook page last week honoring McDermott. In it, the district shared McDermott's history with the Greenfield, Bridgewater and Fontanelle areas and expressed their condolences to McDermott's family in this time.
"Steve had such a reaching impact in his work as an educator and his presence and wisdom will be greatly missed," the post read. "Nodaway Valley would like to extend their most sincere condolences to the McDermott family during this difficult time."