After 50 years with Shawnee Mission, SM Northwest’s Van Rose set to leave the classroom — but not the track

Rose, who stresses the importance of sticktoitiveness with his calculus students and distance runners, has spent 49 years at SM Northwest.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise that a man who has seen fit to amass 50 years in the classroom puts a special weight on the value of persistence.

It’s a characteristic Van Rose stresses with the students he works with in his calculus classes and the distance running programs he coaches at SM Northwest.

Want to become a successful cross country runner? Practice running all year long, he says.

“Your genetics, doesn’t mean a thing. It’s persistence. You just keep plugging away at it and the body adapts.”

Want to master the concepts of calculus? Practice thinking through calculus concepts.

“It’s a thought thing, not just dumping a number into a formula and cranking it out. You’ve got to really think it through.”

After finishing college at K-State, where he ran cross country and track, he taught a single year at SM East before accepting a job as a math teacher and the head cross country coach at the newly opened — though not yet completed — SM Northwest.

“The first year we didn’t even have the whole building — it was just half finished,” he said. “They bussed the lunches in. Gym was in a couple classrooms.”

Forty-nine years later, with thousands of SM Northwest graduates having been his students, Rose will retire from teaching at the end of the month.

“I figured it was time,” he said. “We have an 11 month old granddaughter. We like to travel.”

While many people know Rose for his role as a coach — he was the first-ever inductee into the SM Northwest Hall of Fame and has been a part of 34 of the school’s 70 state titles — his teaching career has been marked by many honors as well. In both 1995 and 2003, he was named a Distinguished Teacher by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars.

Though he loves working with students on challenging calculus coursework, he said he’s ready to hang up his chalk.

“The technology’s probably gone over my head,” he said. “My class still has textbooks and the chalkboard. It’s probably time for someone who understands the technology better.”

But he won’t be disappearing from the SM Northwest community any time soon. Rose intends to come back next year as an assistant distance running coach.

“The people that I kind of hang around with are coaches. So if I were to cut myself off from that group of people, I’d be home alone,” he said.

Rose’s family history in the Shawnee Mission district extends well beyond his career as an employee. He started attending district schools as a third grader at Santa Fe Trail before moving on to Milburn Junior High (which would later be renamed Antioch Middle School, and was torn down to make way for the new Center for Academic Achievement). He attended his first year of high school at SM North before moving on to the just-opened SM West for his junior and senior years.

Since he came to SM Northwest, his family’s ties to the school have only deepened. His nephew Mike Rose is currently a math teacher and basketball coach at the school. His own kids, as well as nieces and nephews, have graduated from Northwest.

“I love the people here,” he said. “You don’t keep coming back to a place unless you love the people. Everyone here has taken care of me.”