by Nathan Warner
Thirty retiring veteran employees from across Elk River Area School District were the guests of honor at a ceremony at Westwood Elementary in Zimmerman.
Superintendent Mark Bezek and School Board Chair Jane Bunting shared words with the 21 women and nine men from all but three of the schools in the district.
“Thousands of men and women all over the world were taught by the people in this room,” Bezek said. Among those referred to was Paula Donnelly, Handke Center teacher for 26 years, who was recently named the Elk River Area School District’s Elementary Teacher of the Year.
Adding each retiring teacher’s years of service, Bezek noted that they shared 856 years of cumulative teaching experience, before mentioning that most of those present probably graduated in the ‘70s.
“If we look back to 1970, we remember that The Beatles broke up, IBM invented the floppy disk and the north tower of the World Trade Center topped out at over 1,300 feet,” Bezek said. “That was a long time ago and puts into perspective how long you’ve all been helping students learn.”
Bunting said the retirees’ legacy was impossible to put into words, “But it will sink in when we lose their voices lobbying for their students,” she said, adding that the seeds they planted grow to give back to the communities. Looking ahead, Bunting recommended the teachers refresh their bucket lists, now that they have the time to do what they want.
After handing out plaques to the retiring teachers who were present, Bezek honored those who weren’t able to attend the celebration. “Among them is Elk River High School teacher Tim Wick, who is laboring tirelessly right now to ensure two of his seniors graduate,” he said.
Bezek said this example epitomized the motivation and passion of all district teachers.
“There are 2,200 ‘Tim Wick’s in our district, and they all believe in our mission to educate, inspire and empower the next generation,” he said. “We will sorely miss you all when you leave, so come back as volunteers and stay involved in your students’ lives.”
The list of retirees includes: Diane Anderson, Karen Aule,Valerie Bakken, Sharon Becklin, Lance Boole, Carol Churchill, Carol Dircz-Thuleen, Paula Donnelly, Corinne Flatgard, Ellen Harell, Roger Hilliard, Nancy Horton, Barbara Johnson, Larry Johnson, Phillip Johnson, Sharon Kalmoe, Dale Lanz, Gary Livingston, Janet McKernan, Kathleen Neale, Evelyn Olson, Greg Phillips, Bruce Powers, Valerie Scheibel, Pamela Schiro, Marlene Thompson, Mary Wetterlund, Timothy Wick, Debra Wilson, Lynne Yazzie and Diane Zimmerman.