Teacher Calls It KaPutz
Like a U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor, longtime educator Linda Putzulu was busy quizzing students about the rules of tennis before they picked up a racket and walked to the nets inside the gymnasium at Tyler County Consolidated High School. Like cadets in training, students answered her questions loudly and with pride.
“Ms. Putz is a good teacher,” said Brandon Weigle, a sophomore. “She does not let people goof around all the time, but she still makes gym fun for all of us. We’ll miss her when she’s gone.”
After more than 42 years of service so far to Tyler schools, Putzulu, otherwise known as “Ms. Putz” to everyone, will retire at the end of the school year in 2016.
“Yes, I am very torn about leaving,” she said. “School has been the center of my life ever since I’ve been here.”
While the students practiced using tennis rackets, a boombox played Taylor Swift’s song “Back to December” a song from her third album Speak Now.
“Ms. Putz plays a lot of weird soundtracks, but it keeps us entertained,” said Aaron Warner, a sophomore.
Music spurs the students to do more.
“The music often gets the kids to do more without realizing it, because they are listening to music as they do the sport,” Putzulu said. “Often if you use music with a fast beat, they will move faster. That is why we use it in various sports in PE in hopes they will find one they like and continue to play it after they are out of school, so they will be moving without really thinking of it as working out.”
Throughout the past four decades, Putzulu, 64, has coached volleyball, basketball and track, as well as taught history and health classes, but primarily she is known as “the” physical education teacher.
“Linda Putzulu has served our students beyond the walls of her classroom – she has been a coach, a cheerleader, a mentor, and a friend to not only our students but her colleagues as well,” Superintendent Robin Daquilante said. “Putz is leaving some big shoes to be filled, and she will be greatly missed.”
Putzulu was Sistersville High School’s yearbook adviser for many years and she still takes photographs for the Tyler Consolidated High School yearbook. Her tiny office is decorated with photos of students past and present.
“I enjoy working with kids,” she said. “We have great kids here. This school it’s more of a family situation where people will help you out with everything.”
Though Putzulu is only 5 feet 2 inches tall, her powerful stature commands the rare kind of respect learned from four decades of teaching – that balances authority with kindness and fun.
“She keeps us in line, keeps us disciplined, but we have a lot of fun too,” Warner said. “I’m definitely going to miss her.”
Putzulu explained her philosophy on teaching she’s old school. She talked about how by establishing rules, students know what is expected of them. Rules, boundaries help them to succeed not only now as teenagers, but as adults, she said.
“I enforce the rules because sometimes kids like to be lazy, but they should be doing what they are supposed to be doing,” she said.
During Putzulu’s classes, students do worksheets on the rules that govern each sport as homework. She said they may not take a “zero” though they may say “just give me a zero.” Putzulu said an important part of teaching is enforcing “good rules” making the students abide by them.
If a student takes the easy way out, there are consequences just like in real life.
“I make them come to my DT (detention) at lunch and work on it until it is done,” Putzulu said. “That way, they can’t disregard the assignment. They know that if they want to eat lunch with their friends, they get it done.”
Putzulu didn’t start out thinking she wanted to be a teacher, but as a physical therapist when she began attending classes at West Virginia Wesleyan.
“Physical therapy work at the hospital was depressing, so I decided to go into teaching instead,” she said. “To me, teaching was more low key, easy going and not a lot of turmoil.”
Soon after Putz graduated from W.Va.Wesleyan in 1973, she began her teaching career at Sistersville High School. She earned a master’s degree in physical education from WVU in 1978. When Tyler County schools consolidated, she started teaching at Tyler Consolidated High School in 1993.
After Putzulu retires, she said she intends to spend time in North Carolina so as to be closer to her 90-year-old mother.
Putzulu was humble when she wondered aloud whether she has made a difference during the past 42 years of teaching in Tyler County.
“I’m just a teacher that tried very hard to be fair with the students and give them the best PE program I could with what I had to work with over the years,” she said.