• Go Beavers!!!

Forssberg remembers time at PCC as an instructor and coach

08 May 2018

“You either hated Verneene, or you loved her!”

Verneene Forssberg, former instructor at Pratt Community College, recalls what many students and peers thought in her 38 years of teaching and coaching at the institution.

Forssberg began her journey at PCC in 1968. She and her husband moved to Pratt the previous year, as he was teaching at the middle school and she was preparing to have a baby.

“We had moved here from Leon,” said Forssberg. “I had taught school there and he taught school there. That’s where we met. We moved here starting a family. We liked Pratt and thought it was a good little town to raise a family in.”

Forssberg became the very first physical education teacher PCC had. Two years later, she became the first women’s athletic coach.

“I set up the entire physical education curriculum and soon became the department head for PE,” said Forssberg. “As time went on, I coached all sports, sometimes at the same time. I coached volleyball, tennis, softball, and basketball.”

Despite being the first women’s coach, Forssberg never had experience playing any of the sports on a competitive level.

“I wasn’t really particularly a great coach. I never played sports. When I was in college, I majored in physical education and history,” said Forssberg. “That was the time they began to reinstitute girls sports into the high schools. I had missed that part, so I didn’t have life experience in the area, but I depended heavily on my husband, since he was a coach.”

Forssberg admits during that time period, being a women’s athletic coach was not the most glamorous task. She had to fight for gym time to practice and better equipment, which were mostly allocated to men’s sports at the time.

“You had to elbow your way into the gym for time,” said Forssberg. “It wasn’t really a thankful position but it was one that I did because it was needed.”

Out of all the sports she had the opportunity to coach, one particularly stood out to her as her favorite.

“Volleyball was my favorite sport to coach,” said Forssberg. “I knew more about volleyball than any other sport. I really struggled coaching basketball. I don’t think I ever got to where I should be. I learned more from the girls than they ever learned from me.”

Aside from the plethora of sports Forssberg coached, she also had an abundance of classes she taught.

“Eventually I began to move over into teaching history,” said Forssberg. “I became the department chair for social science education. I taught a lot of history while still teaching in the physical education area. I started teaching yearbook and newspaper. I knew absolutely nothing about that, so I took courses to learn how to better teach them. Then I was asked to teach reading. I went to Fort Hays State University to learn how to teach reading. I used to joke that I taught everything at the college except tractor driving, and I wasn’t too sure they weren’t going to appoint me to do that!”

“My favorite class I taught would probably be Perspectives of Human Sexuality since it was so controversial,” said Forssberg. “I taught it for almost as long as I was there. Before I began teaching it, the textbooks we had were taken out of the bookstore and parked in the President’s office for several weeks. He said he had to get the core subject approved because it just told it like it was. It was kind of funny.”

Though Perspectives of Human Sexuality was her favorite class, she admits she enjoyed just about everything she taught.

“I really liked teaching the histories,” said Forssberg. “I really liked teaching everything to be honest with you. I got a big kick out of teaching reading, because I would take the kids in their regarded disciplines and teach them how to get the most out of reading their textbooks. I felt kind of successful doing that. It was an enriching thing for me and I enjoyed seeing their growth.”

While Forssberg prides herself as a teacher most students loved, she admits that wasn’t always the case.

“Students and other instructors would say, ‘You either hate Verneene or you love her,’” said Forssberg. “That’s how it was. If you didn’t come to class or follow the rules, I’d tell you about it. If you acted up, I’d tell you about it. I broke up fights in the halls. I would stop people from writing on walls and defacing school property. I would tell them they shouldn’t do that. At the time, a lot of people were uncomfortable standing up to the students.”

Throughout the 38 years Forssberg was employed at the college, she saw numerous physical changes with the campus to shape it how it is today.

“For one thing, when I started working there, the parking lot wasn’t paved,” said Forssberg. “When it rained, you would be traveling around in mud. Of course, all the other buildings and dorms were eventually added as well. I was there when there were several projects to pass bonds. It was a part of life around there.”

She also recalls the cafeteria being located where the current offices for Student Services is at.

“That’s where we had coffee,” said Forssberg. “Everybody would congregate there for a cup of coffee.”

Forssberg was involved with the National Education Association and the Pratt Higher Education Associations (PHEA) during her time as an instructor. She also spent a few years as president of the PHEA.

“That put me right in the middle of negotiations and a lot of times, those were very contentious,” said Forssberg.

Despite the challenges with being a female coach and working through negotiations while in the PHEA, Forssberg enjoyed what she did and the memories she gained along the way.

“The kids were definitely part of my favorite memories at the college,” said Forssberg. “I have a funny sense of humor. I arrived one day and my journalism class, which had a bunch of jokers, had a broom parked outside my room with a sign on it that said ‘Vern’s car.’ That kind of tells you that you were loved, as oddly as it may sound.”

She also enjoyed the people she worked with and often joked around with them as well.

“The people I worked with from day to day are also what I enjoyed about PCC,” said Forssberg. “I used to ride the janitors tails about turning up the heat in the parking lot! It makes for a better working environment when you enjoy the people you work with.”

September 6, 1938, Pratt Junior College opened its doors as the 14th junior college created in Kansas. Pratt “Juco” welcomed 150 new students to its original campus located on 401 S Hamilton St. Eighty years later, Pratt Community College, is proud to have helped build the futures of thousands of students on-campus, online, at our Winfield and Wichita learning centers and through high school concurrent enrollment.

The mission of Pratt Community College is maximum student learning, individual and workforce development, high quality instruction and service, and community enrichment. PCC is proud to be a part of the community in Pratt, Kansas. With more than 80 years of history, PCC remains humbled to serve our community and students who come to build a foundation for their lives.

This year we celebrate this grand anniversary and remember those who’ve walked through these halls. Each month during 2018 PCC is proud to feature stories and memories from alumnae, community members and faculty who have helped see our institution and mission grow. If you would like to share an experience or memory or be considered for one of our monthly features contact Jessica Sanko, 620-450-2192, jessicas@prattcc.edu.