by Marlys Kruger
COLFAX — Colfax School District staff members were honored at the annual staff recognition banquet held at Whitetail Golf Course May 27. Staff members who served from one year of service to over 30 years, including several retirees, were honored and received awards. Staff members included teachers, para-educators, food service workers and bus drivers along with school board members.
One year pins went to Michael Dombrowski, Kelly Haskamp, Melissa Nehm, Denise Buchholz, Bradley Hostak, Ken Wittmer and Jennifer Mohr. Five year paper weights went to Stacy Powell, Todd Kragness, Rodger Lemler and Jon Suckow. A desk set for ten years of service was presented to Amy Leavens, Sarah Reiter, Vince Ross, Polly Rudi, Margie Ryan, Laura Lowe and Colleen Verdon. Suzanne Blomberg received book ends for 15 years while Jan Fehr received a plaque for 20 years. Joe Doucette, Connie Gibson and Mark Mosey have all been with the district 25 years and were presented a Viking statue and Terri Knutson received a watch for 30 years.
Elementary teachers Debra Berndt, Vicky Maves and Sandra Hart announced their retirement earlier this spring and received rings along with Andy Meade who retired late last summer
Retirees present were asked to reflect on their long careers with the Colfax School District.
Berndt came to Colfax in 1982 with the intention of only staying for one year. She began her 33 year stint at the Plainveiw country school owned by the district and taught three grades in one room.When the school closed, she moved into town to teach second grade and moved into third grade when needed.
“I became involved with activities and decided this was a good place to stay and raise my family,” Berndt said. “I watched my two wonderful children grow up in a small town where they could truly grow in a safe and nurturing community. As a teacher, I have truly enjoyed my 33 years of working with children of all ages. I have seen many little faces come and go and I am proud to be a small part of their stories as they are all a huge part of mine. I will miss working with such a great staff, but most importantly, I will miss seeing all the smiling faces walking into my classroom this fall,” she added.
Berndt plans on substitute teaching and spending time with her family after retirement.
Hart has a total of 36 years in education which includes teaching pre-school, kindergarten, and grades 2-6 and K-6 learning disabilities. The past 26 years have been in Colfax, mostly in third grade.
“I’ve always enjoyed watching students learn and helping them reach their full potential,” Hart said. “It’s fascinating to me to watch children develop and learn new skills. Upon my retirement I plan to substitute teach, spend time with my grandchildren and travel the U.S. with my husband. I’d like to thank the Colfax district for a great 26 years and I wish the best to the district for a bright future,” she concluded.
Maves had a little later start in the education field than Berndt and Hart, as she graduated from UW-Eau Claire in December of 1990 and began subbing and working as a teacher’s aid in the district just a month later. After working a year in the Media Center, she was in the right place at the right time and moved into a fourth grade position the next year. She has been in the district 24 and a half years, with most of the years in third grade and the last nine in first grade. She has also been a big part of the Destination Imagination program and sometimes led three different teams in the same year.
Maves has seen a lot of changes through the years including administrators, co-workers, rooms, political atmospheres, state mandates, budget cuts, loss of the union, technology, the need to improve educator effectiveness, behavior plans and social media just to name a few.
“All that really matters is what happens from that first day of school each year when you welcome those great Colfax kids and the relationships that are built between the teacher and student that create a classroom atmosphere where students can learn and grow,” Maves said. “The kids became “mine” during their time in my classroom. I cared about each and every one whether our days were awesome or not so good and that continued even when they moved on to another grade. It has been a privilege to work with all of these kids, not just in my classroom but in other aspects of the school,” she added. A native of Boyceville, she plans on spending time with grandkids and will continue to play in the Ludington Guard band in Menomonie during the summer.
Meade decided after the banquet last spring he would retire after 30 years of teaching World History and Social Problems at the high school. He also coached varsity boys’ basketball in two different stints.
“I would like to thank the school district, the Colfax community, all of my colleagues and my former students and players for making the past 30 years one of the greatest experiences of my life,” he said. “Because of this opportunity, I have been able to have an impact on many students and players’ lives as well as creating life long friends through my interaction with my colleagues and the community. I guess when you stay in one school 30 years it shows what a great place that can be. I will always support and cheer for the Colfax Vikings,” he concluded. Meade plans on spending time with his family and will continue to be involved with student athletes through his first love of coaching.
Jeff Lankau also retired last summer after teaching elementary music for 15 years in the district and coaching middle school track.