Paul Stalnaker at CCHS in 1961.
In our county, we have immeasurable riches in our
hilltops, valleys, and riversides. Many may be thinking of our oil and
gas, but that is not what I am describing.
It is our people.
Neighbors, family, and even strangers can find warmth in
our homes and hearts. We have individuals who know sacrifice, love,
patience, and peace.
We have seen our share of hard times; we have walked the
darkened valleys, but those fires that have burned us deeply have
refined us into an equation of incalculable wealth.
This equation was proven to be true when I spent an
afternoon with one of Calhoun’s celebrated educators, math teacher Paul
You know that feeling you get when you see a teacher you
had when you were young?
It’s like seeing your third grade teacher, and
multiplication tables start running through your mind.
I was never a pupil of Mr. Stalnaker, but he still has
that presence. Immediately, I felt as if he should ask all the
questions, and I was there to learn, listen, and answer.
I can now proudly say that I too have sat before this
master educator and story teller. A true educator must be a phenomenal
story teller. After all, even Jesus used parables.
I know some of my readers are getting nervous at the
thoughts of Stalnaker’s stories. Was your name mentioned? Were you one
of the paddled?
I will try to leave out names to protect the guilty, but
you know who you are.
Stalnaker was an educator for over 38 years. He laughed
as he talked about some of his students: “Oh, they always tried to get
the best of me. I was a boy too. My days in the classroom started when I
was 17. I had to be one step ahead and outwit them.”
He recalled the April Fool’s pranks that took at least
10 years off his life--and the battle to paddle the teacher on his
“I have had thousands of students, and they were the
greatest in the world,” he said.
Isn’t that statement amazing?
An educator for almost four decades and his praise is
not of his own accolades. He didn’t mention his own achievements,
diplomas or scholarly successes.
When Stalnaker summed up his years at the chalkboard of
Calhoun schools, he said simply that it was his students that were the
Stalnaker has a true passion for his subject, “Math is
the perfect subject.”
He has a love for his pupils and a dedication to his
“There is no place like Calhoun County,” he claimed.
Stalnaker is a native of the county. He was born in 1930
on Wolf Run, Orma, and raised there along with his six siblings.
He was the fourth child of Fenton R. and Opal Downs
Stalnaker, who were also teachers at one time.
“I am thankful to have been the middle child. I got to
know all of my brothers and sisters, all of my grandparents, and even
one set of my great-grandparents,” he said.
His early education was at Orma and Arnoldsburg schools.
When he was 12, he took a promotion test with his older brother Marvin.
He was promoted to the ninth grade. Thus, at the age of a sixth grader,
he began high school at CHS.
Not only did he begin high school, he also began
teaching. Lloyd Vaughn was his VoAg teacher.
“He would take some students on field trips. I remember
him coming to me and asking me to run his class while he was gone on
those trips. So, I taught his class of older boys for the next three
years, whenever he would be on a trip. Can you believe that? I just did
it. I never had any problems either,” said Stalnaker.
After graduating in 1946 at age 16, Stalnaker went to
work for his dad, driving horses and skidding out wood to furnish logs
for the sawmills.
“I knew after months of this work, that it was surely
not for me. With $250, I hitchhiked into Glenville and started the
second semester at Glenville State.” He continued his education for the
next 10 years and beyond. After beginning his teaching career, he
attended courses at night and in the summers.
In the fall of 1947, at 17, Stalnaker began in his first
“I was sent to the head of the West Fork, up on Metheney
Ridge. Everyone said that I would never make it. That I would be run out
for sure, but I never had any trouble,” he said.
Metheney School was the first of six one-room schools
that Stalnaker would teach. He also taught in Minnora and at a school in
Akron, Ohio, but he ended up at Calhoun High School.
“I made twice as much money in Ohio and was acquainted
with good people, but Calhoun was where I was born and raised. I am
partial to our county,” said Stalnaker.
“I knew everyone and every place here. I knew my
students, their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. I knew where
they lived and the good and the bad about them. I knew what was in them
and tried my best to get it out of them.”
Another impact Stalnaker had on county schools had to do
with deer season. At age 15, he became a hunter by bagging an
eight-pointer on a trip into Webster County. From that point on, hunting
was necessary even if it meant missing school.
“I took it upon myself to talk to all five board members
about the school calendar. If we could be on break during the week of
Thanksgiving, no one would miss school to go hunting. Lots of people
thought that was silly. Kanawha County folks called us hillbilly and
back woodsy, but the truth is over half of the students, faculty, even
bus drivers, were taking off to go hunting. It just made sense.”
The board decided in favor of Stalnaker’s suggestion and
even today the schools are off during the first week of deer hunting.
Stalnaker told stories about his students and the antics
of his classroom in the basement next to fellow teacher Don McCartney.
He ended our time together by saying, “I’ve been a lot
of places, seen a lot of things, but I don’t believe there is anyone who
has had a better life than I. My teaching experiences and associations
with all are something I’m proud of and honored by. I’m glad one hundred
times over that I have remained here in Calhoun.”
Stalnaker has been married to his wife, Lenell, for 57
years. They have two children and three granddaughters. He has been
retired from teaching for 24 years. In his retirement, he explained his
time with his grandchildren as fun and exciting: “They made life
interesting again. Time with them was like going to the circus. We
babied the life out of those girls.”
It seems that whether he was in the classroom,
delivering wood to neighbors, or working the polls at election time
(which he did for close to 55 years), Stalnaker is a prime factor in our
Calhoun equation. He is a beloved and celebrated educator and one of the
many people who makes Calhoun a priceless place to live.
Former Calhoun County High School teacher Paul Stalnaker talks about
percentages with reporter (and now a devoted student) Maricia Mlynek.