LA JUNTA – Barb Leininger, a long-time educator in the Arkansas Valley region, will soon retire from teaching at Otero Junior College. For the past 10 years, Leininger has served as math faculty at OJC in the math lab.
Leininger grew up on her family’s ranch 60 miles north of Casper, Wyo. After graduating from Kelly Walsh High School, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biomechanics and math from the University of Wyoming. Leininger returned to UW in the summers to complete her math education courses.
In her first year out of college, Leininger taught Title 1 reading and math and coached in Spur, Texas. When Leininger and husband Zane moved to La Junta for his job at the Colorado Veterinary Clinic, teaching jobs were scarce.
“I ended up getting the Assistant Women’s Basketball coach position under Bill Barnett,” said Leininger. “He was an absolute wild man, but he loved the sport and was very smart. I learned a whole lot from him about basketball and having passion for what you love.”
Leininger went on to teach math and coach for Crowley County Schools for 7 years before coming to teach in La Junta in 1989. Once hired, she taught math for 10 years and 5th grade for 5 years. During this time, she taught the son of Tom Armstrong, then Vice President of Instruction at OJC, which eventually led to her position at OJC.
In 2003, Leininger joined the faculty at OJC teaching PC-based mathematics. While she has remained in the same position for 10 years, the programs and technology have changed over time, becoming much more user-friendly.
“I have worked to make online math courses improve student learning,” said Leininger of her accomplishments while at OJC. “The math lab is now a busy place where students often come to work and get help with their math. I feel the program has more respect than when I started.”
Leininger has noticed many improvements and upgrades since she began at OJC. Some of the biggest changes Leininger has seen while at OJC involve the support available to students. “Student support has exploded! We take better care of our students than when I first started,” said Leininger. “OJC works hard to keep up with the times, so there is constant change and upgrading.”
When asked what she will miss most about OJC, Leininger had a simple answer: the students. “The students are what make teaching worthwhile. I will miss the relationships with my students.”
Additionally, Leininger will miss the campus. “One of my favorite parts of OJC has always been enjoying the beautiful flowers and landscaping of Genia Short. She made OJC a showplace!”
Once retired from teaching, Leininger does not envision kicking back and relaxing. “I need to get my life organized,” said Leininger. “I have a shed full of antiques to refinish. We are building a small bunkhouse that needs my attention. I have a new cow dog puppy that needs training and a couple of young horses waiting for someone to spend time on them,” she added.
More time with family is definitely in the plans. “My husband Zane is a very busy large animal veterinarian. I look forward to going with him more often. We also operate a family ranch south of La Junta, where I hope to spend more time,” explained Leininger. “My daughter, Andrea, will graduate from the University of Wyoming this spring. I look forward to helping her move to Pueblo where she has a job waiting with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. My son, Zach, is a student and member of the rodeo team at Garden City Community College. I look forward to getting to attend some of his college rodeos.”
Leininger summed her plans up with, “I have always said that I will give more of myself to my church, my family and my community. I guess it is time to follow through.”