By Eleni Bow
She knows what she likes. Whether it’s window shopping for antiques or seeing rock music legends with her husband, she knows she likes it, and when she likes something, she keeps it in her life for decades and decades.
Mrs. Julie Blakely has been a teacher on the Delta staff since 1991 and has given little thought about retiring, even after 32 years.
She has the most seniority of any other current teacher, other than English teacher Mr. Kip Omstead, who came out of retirement this year.
Blakely graduated from Muncie Central High School in 1980 and earned her teaching degree from Ball State University 10 years later. At first, she entered Ball State with a major in journalism, but she put it on pause to work her part-time job at the now defunct Marsh grocery store chain.
When she was 20, she got married and eventually had her two children. In 1987, she returned to Ball State, now with a double major in English and American History.
Upon completion of her degree, Blakely became a student teacher at both the middle school and high school. In 1991, she was able to begin working as a teacher and was promptly hired.
She was hired by Delta as an English Language Arts teacher for freshmen. As she continued to teach English in 1999, another teacher, Ms. Joey Gossett, joined the department. This would be the start of a grand, long-lasting friendship.
“We taught summer school together for quite a few years back when we had it,” Gossett said. “I think it was nice that students got to see camaraderie among all of the English teachers, not just between me and Mrs. Blakely, but we all got along really well.”
The friendship between the two teachers would be marked by trips to Las Vegas, dinners, and playing together on a bowling team. Their adventures would be joined by former English teacher Mrs. Cheri Ridley and former Special Ed teacher Mrs. Marilee Creech.
However, the two would later see each other in different parts of the building, as Blakely taught history classes and Gossett went on to be assistant principal.
Working in different departments didn’t dampen their friendship. The two still talk regularly in the halls, with Blakely becoming super excited to share facts and knowledge.
“She knows everything. Sometimes I’m in awe, like if we are discussing a topic [about past eras], she comes in and adds so much to it,” Gossett says.
For the last two years, Blakely has been working a half-day schedule, only teaching classes the first four periods of the day. These classes are either American History or dual-credit Ivy Tech HIST 101-2.
“I like teaching about the Cold War the best right now, but that’s probably one of the units that I know about the least,” Blakely said. “[The Cold War] was so much longer than people realize.”
Outside of class, Blakely can be found attending concerts. Starting when she was a teenager in high school, The Who, The Rolling Stones, U2, and John Mellencamp are just a few she’s seen.
Music festivals are also a fun time for her. She’s attended May Day and X-Fest, but what she really wants to go to is the South by Southwest festival.
“Most of the people and bands I’d like to see are no longer around, like David Bowie and the Allman Brothers,” she said.
As Blakely has taught throughout the decades, her work environment has changed all around her. Not only was 1991 the year she started at Delta, it was also the year that the school started its evolution from open-concept to individual classrooms.
Armed with nothing but a Riggin’s Dairy crate holding the necessary materials for her day, Blakely would jump between teaching upstairs and downstairs for the formerly six-period school day. The din of neighboring classes, separated by a thin sheet of visqueen plastic, and construction work made it hard for students to focus.
Fortunately, the work did not last long, and soon individual classrooms were built with true walls dividing them. Blakely now resides on the second floor in room 220, where she exclusively teaches juniors.
“Eleventh graders are more mature, and there aren’t any write-ups,” she said. “COVID has also kind of put a damper I think, people just in general are quieter in class now. I’ve had good classes the last several years.”
Kayden Thomas is a junior enrolled in Blakely’s second period HIST 102 class.
“I like that Mrs. Blakely always brings energy to our class even if we are talking about a boring history subject from the 1700s,” he said.
Not only does Blakely bring energy to the classroom, she also brings it to the extracurricular activities she sponsors. She is one of two sponsors for the Student Council, along with English teacher Mrs. Whitney Freeman.
Although Freeman has only been teaching at Delta for the past two years, she and Blakely have worked together on Student Council as if they’ve known each other forever.
“She knows everybody and she knows all of the traditions, like what’s been done in the past, so she has a lot of information and experience for kids who have ideas,” Freeman said. “She’s really fun to be around and positive all the time.”
When you like something, you tend to keep it in your life, and for jubilant Julie Blakely, she’s keeps it for 32 years and beyond.