By Emily Miehe
The legacy of Bruce Jay Wigg will never be forgotten at Union High School. The impact he left on students, faculty, and the building is an impact that many cherish.
Wigg started teaching at La Porte City High School, now Union High School, in 1977. Sitting down for an interview, Wigg reminisced on memories of his first years of teaching. He talked about how the first few years were hard, spending countless hours in and outside of the classroom developing material for his classes. Over the course of his career, he stated that after developing endless sets of notes, presentations, and tests, the time he spent preparing those materials greatly diminished. He also talked about some of his closest colleagues when he first started out teaching.
“Judy Holmes… and Craig Gingrich came the year I came,” Wigg said. He also mentioned teaching with the three male teachers in particular. “Then you have Borton, Bullis, and Burkgren, ‘the three b’s’ I called them, they taught here. They were real nice to work with.” Wigg said he worked with a lot of good people.
Wigg said his seventh grade history teacher inspired him to become a social studies teacher. The teacher was a big, strong guy who was into sports and football, so they connected that way.
“He got me into listening to the stories of history, and I really liked it,” Wigg said. The teacher asked Wigg to tutor a boy in the class who was struggling, and after tutoring the boy he got his grade up. “I thought that felt good, I liked history and I liked the result I got there, so I started thinking about teaching. More specifically teaching history.”
Wigg said teaching him to always be focused on preparation. He always wanted to be prepared when walking into the classroom.
“You never knew what was going to happen next. Everyday brought something new and different,” Wigg said.
Teaching also brought Wigg to love watching the news and reading about history and economics. He said that while teaching he subscribed to two different papers and two or three different news magazines so that when he was teaching he knew what he was talking about.
“The fact that I was teaching those subjects meant that outside of school I focused on keeping those at the forefront so that I’d be prepared in class for whatever came up,” Wigg said.
What he enjoys the most is not worrying about the daily stresses of a teacher every night before he goes to bed. However, Wigg said that he does miss the daily interaction with the kids.
“There are a lot of kids that I wish I could see more often,” Wigg said.
When interviewing current Union High School principal Jim Cayton, he had only great things to say about Wigg. Cayton was a sophomore the first year that Wigg started teaching. He was able to experience working with Wigg as principal of Union High School for a few years before Wigg retired. Cayton took his sociology and government classes, and he also played tennis and wrestled with Wigg as coach.
Cayton said his favorite thing about Wigg was how he connected with students. He added that when having Wigg as a teacher, he really connected with him, and it felt like he genuinely understood the students. Cayton suggested Wigg was sort of like a big brother to him at the time, and he could easily relate to him.
“I was the youngest in my family and nobody had gone to college,” Cayton said. “I wanted to, but I didn’t know about it and my parents didn’t go to college. So, Wigg was kind of that guy for me who said, you can do this, you can go to college, and here’s what it’s about.”
Wigg made such a large impact on so many people’s lives throughout his teaching career, and although many were sad to see him retire, now he has been able to do things he has wanted to do that he didn’t have time for when teaching. He now gets up around seven in the morning every day and works on his computer, organizes his stuff, and reads.
“You know, really, there is so many times that kids have come up to me and thanked me for being their teacher and those are my favorite memories Wigg said.”