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Starr teachers set for retirement

Four classroom teachers at Starr Elementary plan to retire in June. Pictured above are, top (left to right): Shelly McInnes and Sherry Thompson, bottom (left to right): Kate Haugen and Bonnie Jackelen.

Sixteen teachers are retiring from the New Richmond School District at the end of June. Those teachers have a combined teaching experience of more than 300 years, said Morrie Veilleux, district administrator.

Most of the teachers, who teach at the elementary level, will be replaced by new teachers because that's where the district is experiencing the most growth.

Below is a list of the teachers retiring:

Lynean Cronick, fifth-grade teacher at Hillside Elementary; Vicki Gjovik, third grade teacher at Paperjack; Kate Haugen, first grade teacher at Starr; Faith Hesselink, second grade teacher at Paperjack; Bonnie Jackelen second-grade teacher at Starr Elementary; Joe Jamieson, physical education teacher at the high school; Kerry Kittel, social studies teacher at the high school; Marcia Kulbitski second-grade teacher at Hillside; Bill Leahy, vocal music instructor at the middle school; Shelly McInnes, second grade teacher at Starr; Barb Peterson, music teacher at Hillside; Gayle Pullman, special services teacher at the high school; Shirley Rossing, music teacher at Starr Elementary; Sue Swanson, third-grade teacher at Hillside; Sherry Thompson, kindergarten teacher at Starr; and Julie White, media specialist at Hillside/Paperjack Elementary.

In this article, the New Richmond News is featuring the elementary teachers of Starr Elementary.

Kate Haugen

The only time Kate Haugen has spent away from New Richmond is the time she spent in college at Hamline University.

"I attended the current middle school as did my children," she said. "My parents attended school in that building when it was the high school."

Haugen said it will be interesting to see yet another transition when the current middle school moves into the former high school this summer.

The first grade teacher has been teaching in the district for 32 years. Twenty of those years were in her current position; four years were spent as a learning disabilities teacher and eight years as the district reading specialist.

"One of my favorite memories is teaching first-graders to read," she said.

Haugen said remaining in New Richmond was never a question for her.

"I think about how even though New Richmond has grown, many things have remained the same," she said. "It is still a great community and an excellent place to raise a family."

Though Haugen will miss the students and staff she's worked with over the years, she said she's looking forward to spending more time with family and friends. She's also planning to travel.

Bonnie Jackelen

Bonnie Jackelen is looking forward to enjoying her time off and not worrying about "school planning" all the time.

That's not to say she won't miss the work, after spending 33 years as a New Richmond second grade teacher.

The Amery native said there's nothing quite like seeing the look on a second-grader's face when a lesson finally clicks into place.

Most of all, Jackelen said she'll miss teaching the kids new things.

"One of my favorite teaching memories is teaching about the life of a Monarch butterfly," she said. "We would all go searching for caterpillars, and then we'd have the chance to watch them go through each stage. The best moment was being able to see and hear the excitement of the children when a butterfly was emerging from a chrysalis!"

The butterfly experiment is an annual lesson, she said.

The captured caterpillars are housed in a clear aquatarium or butterfly habitat with small sticks.

It's only a matter of weeks before the caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly.

"The total time frame for one butterfly's life cycle (one generation) is about 6-8 weeks ... egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly," she said.

Once the butterfly has blossomed, Jackelen's students name it and let it go free.

Jackelen said teaching second-graders was her perfect match.

"I student taught at the high school level (psychology), pre-school, kindergarten and second grade," she said. "I loved second grade. The kids are at a great age. They are so excited about learning and they are more independent after being at school for a few years. They can read and are like sponges when it comes to learning new things. I always felt that when you love what you're doing, why change it?"

It's that love for her students that will make retiring difficult, she said.

Shelly McInnes

Shelly McInnes said she will also miss the release of the butterflies.

"The children were always excited to see them take flight, but they were also concerned about them making the long journey to Mexico for the winter," she said.

The group searched for their caterpillars at Paperjack Greenway, McInnes said.

The Marion, N.D. native ended up in New Richmond after hearing about a job opening from a friend.

The second-grade teacher has worked for the district for 33 years.

It'll be hard for her to walk away from that much history with the district, she said. There are many factors about teaching that she'll miss, she said. Some of those things include: the excitement of children as they catch on to something new, their growth toward independence as they gain confidence in themselves, and the colleagues that she has had the privilege to work with over the years, she said.

McInnes said that while it will be hard to walk away, she's looking forward to spending some "unhurried" time with family and friends in both the Twin Cities and North Dakota.

Sherry Thompson

Sherry Thompson will never forget her class' Christmas party in 2004.

The day started as any other day. Kids were arriving at school and putting their winter gear away in the hallway.

"I heard a child screaming in the hallway, and rushed out to see what was going on. The child was crying, and insisted that something was in his shoe inside his backpack, and said 'it' had bitten him when he reached in to take his shoes out of his backpack," she said.

Naturally, Thompson thought the child had been scratched by something in his backpack and that there couldn't possibly be an animal hiding inside his shoe.

"When I was bitten on the finger also, I knew he was telling the truth," she said.

Apparently the backpack had been left on the front porch of the family's farmhouse and during the night a bat had crawled inside.

"After the incident, Joan Simpson, the district school nurse, drove both the child and I to the clinic, where we began our series of shots. The bat had tested negative for rabies, but public health said we had to have the rabies shots anyhow because of the possibility of a false negative."

Thompson said while the bat story certainly isn't her favorite memory, it is one she'll never forget. It certainly didn't keep her from returning to school later that day to conduct the classroom Christmas party.

The Hudson native actually started her teaching career in Australia.

She was about to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls when she was approached by a recruiter for the New South Wales Department of Education, she said. She was hired on the spot.

"Since teaching jobs were not plentiful in this area at the time, it seemed like a great opportunity to do what I wanted to do -- teach, meet new people and widen my horizons," she said.

She moved back to western Wisconsin in the 1980s and taught in Clear Lake before opening a preschool (The Red Balloon Preschool) in New Richmond. She started as a kindergarten teacher for the district 15 years ago.

Although she'll miss the kids and her colleagues, Thompson said she's looking forward to not waving goodbye to her husband each morning (he's already been retired for four years); spending more time with her family; spending more time at the cabin; and traveling.

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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