Retiree open house 2019

A string sextet provides background music at the Ottumwa Community School District Retiree Open House Wednesday afternoon. Sixteen teachers were honored, with their years of service to the district totaling 401.

OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa School District honored more than 400 years of service Wednesday afternoon.

More than a dozen teachers and support staff are retiring from the district at the end of the year. Wednesday’s open house was a chance for the community to thank them for their service.

Each retiree had a table set up for greeting guests with a plaque, gift box and a sheet for guests to sign. A string sextet provided the background music in the Ottumwa High School cafeteria.

As Superintendent Nicole Kooiker welcomed the guests, she noted how her day had shifted gears. “Ironically, I got to speak at College and Career Day today. This afternoon, I get to honor you at the end of your service at the other end of the spectrum. All of those years of service and all of those lives you changed are extraordinary. Thank you.”

After her welcome, she invited retirees to come up and say a few words, open mic-style. Several teachers volunteered a memory, something they’ll miss or future plans.

“These are happy tears,” said Gail Granneman, second-grade teacher at Eisenhower. “”I’ve loved my time at Ottumwa. I’ve had family here and I’ve many family here. I hope I’ve touched as many lives as have touched mine.”

Gary Gullion, a fifth-grade teacher at Liberty, shared some favorite memories from his 30-plus years at Ottumwa, but he was quick to credit all those working across the district. “It’s all of the people that work in Ottumwa. Everybody is about making a difference. I’ve never once felt bad about turning my key and walking in the door.”

Mary Jo Knight, a fourth-grade teacher at Liberty, said it was her love of learning that inspired her career. “I think the best thing about teaching is I’ve always loved learning, and I love taking kids on that journey with me.”

Teresa Bates took a different take on her experience as Evans food service manager a got laughs in return: “I love figuring out how many portions are in a 30-pound box of tri tators.”

Rosezelma Funk, a Douma custodian, shared that her favorite experiences was when the students there were able to pronounce her name correctly. She said she loved how excited they got when they got it right. “It excited me, too,” she said.

She got what was perhaps the biggest cheer of the afternoon when she announced her plans to travel in retirement: “I bought my first ticket today to go to Dubai.”

For your information

The 16 retirees have a total of 401 years of service to the Ottumwa school district. They are: Teresa Bates, Evans food service manager, 2003-19; Diana Cain, Ottumwa High School teacher associate, 1988-2019; Deb Cullinan, Evans teacher associate, 1999-2019; Joan Fall, Horace Mann third-grade teacher, 1994-2019; Rosezelma Funk, Douma custodian, 1991-2019; Gail Granneman, Eisenhower second-grade teacher, 1981-2019; Gary Gullion, Liberty fifth-grade teacher, 1986-2019; Jennie Johnson, Evans language arts teacher, 1995-2019; Mary Jo Knight, Liberty fourth-grade teacher, 1984-2019; Judy Newquist, Evans social studies teacher, 1998-2019; Deb Nicholson, OHS teacher associate, 1989-2019; Deb Norton, Evans teacher associate, 1989-2019; Bev Porter, Pickwick preschool teacher, 1995-2019; Janet Sammons, OHS teacher associate, 2009-19; Kent Sedore, OHS social studies teacher, 1995-2019; and Mark Zeller, OHS custodian, 2007-19.

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.


Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.