BLOOMER — On an outing Monday that teacher Derek Thompson helped organize, Bloomer High School seniors ate lunch on a picnic table made in his memory.
Seniors John Salm, Kyle Hilger, Ryan Ratcliff and others spent Monday morning making improvements on land owned by Richard and Mary Gladitsch, property they allow the school district to use for cross-country meets and public uses for a bicycle trail.
It was a chance for them to get together, chat and have fun about two weeks before they graduate May 27.
It was also a chance for them to remember the contributions to the school district of the 32-year-old Thompson, who was killed in a traffic crash April 23.
Salm said the school’s Field Conservation Class overseen by teacher Dewayne Fossum made the picnic table. It has a sign honoring Thompson, who taught in the school district since 2011.
“He was a very influential figure at our school. He changed a lot of people’s lives,” Ratcliff said, adding Thompson put others above himself.
The sign has the symbol of a Blackhawk, the school’s mascot, and a photo of a buck, since Thompson enjoyed deer hunting.
Over 80 students turned out for the Service Learning Project, an event where the students give back to the community. They also installed eight posts marking several trails on the Gladitschs’ property south of Bloomer.
“The Gladitschs are really nice to our school,” Salm said.
Salm also recalled Thompson, a special education teacher, would stop in the school’s hallways to chat with students.
With his death, Hilger said, students no longer see Thompson in a corner of the school where he always stood.
“We’ve made it a point to keep his classroom available,” Bloomer High School Principal Chad Steinmetz said. School officials want students to continue to feel at home in the classroom.
Thompson was a constant presence with his special education students, said Julie Anderson, an English teacher who is the senior class adviser.
Anderson said students have made progress adjusting to Thompson’s death.
“On the whole, there’s been a lot of good, healing things in the (high school) building,” Anderson said.
She praised the students and their contribution toward Monday’s project.
“It’s nice to see them together like this,” she said.
Steinmetz said Monday’s event was the result of work of Thompson, Anderson and four other senior advisers, including teachers Jaime Otto, Nancy Post, Lucas Risinger and Jason Steinmetz.
“We have the same group (of students) for four years,” Anderson said, adding the advisers have met monthly.
The students during those years were offered help in various categories. Seniors this year were given the Reality Check program, where they have to perform real life duties such as writing checks and balancing a checkbook.
The students last year suggested doing something together and being able to work outside. That turned into Monday’s event on the Gladitsch property, where students said thanks to the Gladitschs, recalled the contributions of Derek Thompson and looked forward to their future after graduation.