By MARK NEWMAN Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Cookies, hugs and a few tears marked the departure of 14 educators during an open house Wednesday.
Nurses, a custodian and other specialists who impact children through a kind word or helping them get to the right class joined teachers at Ottumwa High School. They were joined by family members and colleagues offering both congratulations and support: Teachers say retirement is bitter sweet.
There are positive and negative aspects to leaving the job.
“I will terribly miss my students and my staff I work with,” said Jan Koehn, a first-grade teacher with three decades in Ottumwa.
That was the number one regret cited by teachers.
“Kids have their own unique way of speaking,” said Judy Church, who has taught for more than 30 years. “I’ll miss that. I enjoyed being able to listen to them.”
A second-grade teacher, Church said she’ll be relieved, however not to suffer the self-imposed pressure of questioning her own decisions. She’d ask herself regularly whether what she had planned would allow her to be doing what was best for kids.
“I won’t miss that stress,” she said. “I wanted to make a difference in their lives.”
She’s always encouraged kids to do their best, and she hopes that pushing them to succeed won’t cause children to remember her as “a pushy old witch.”
Koehn said she’ll travel, visiting family around the country. When her husband retires, maybe they’ll travel farther. There’s another way she intends to relax, too.
“I’m going to take up quilting again. I’d been so busy,” she said. “I haven’t quilted in 12 years.”
School Superintendent Davis Eidahl and school board president Caroll Mitchell thanked the teachers and support staff Wednesday, and wished them the best in their retirement. Eidahl said their retirement is bittersweet for the school system, too. Between them, he said, the outgoing group represents 355 years of service to students in the Ottumwa school district.
The retirees are Ruth Arnold, Pickwick teacher associate; Judy Church, Horace Mann second-grade teacher; Michele Cooper, OHS Special Education Transition Coordinator; Nancy Emanuel, elementary school nurse; Cathy Gowdy, James/Eisenhower custodian; Gary Granneman, OHS math teacher; Terry Hamm, Evans Industrial Technology teacher; and Jan Koehn, Eisenhower first-grade teacher; Kristi Meyers, Eisenhower first-grade teacher; Karen Rucinski, Douma Reading Recovery teacher; Gwen Twedt, OHS school nurse; Leesa Vogel, Wilson first-grade teacher; Barbara Waller, OHS social studies teacher; and JoAnn Wegner, Douma third grade teacher.