Losing 60 years of experienceMiller had Donkersloot and Schneider for teachers
Two teachers with more than 30 years in the Washington Community School District (WCSD) are retiring at the end of this school year.
Barb Donkersloot is retiring after teaching for 41 years; 39 of those were spent in the WCSD school district.
“It’s kind of amazing, even to me,” Donkersloot said. “It didn’t seem like that long, it just kept happening.”
She said she knew at a young age she wanted to be a teacher.
“I think I’m just one of those people that sort of knew I wanted to do it,” Donkersloot said. “I knew when I was really a young kid and my mom was a country school teacher.”
There are a couple of things that kept Donkersloot from retiring earlier.
“I just really liked it,” Donkersloot said. “I liked kids and I liked my job always.”
This year will be her last year teaching kindergarten. She didn’t always teach that grade. She began as a third-grade teacher, then spent 17 years teaching first grade, although not consecutively, and then went to kindergarten.
She said her students are just now beginning to realize she won’t be there next year when they return.
“I never really brought it up to them,” Donkersloot said. “But then at the music concert the music teacher gave both of us a stem of flowers, and so that was the most eye-opening time.”
After the concert a couple of girls in Donkersloot’s class were talking about her leaving. They asked her during an indoor recess if it was true. Donkersloot said yes and one student said a couple of things to her she would never forget.
“First she said, ‘I’m going to miss you,’ and gave me a big hug,” Donkersloot said. “Then after that she said ‘We’re all going to miss you,’ and that was so sweet it just practically made you want to cry.”
There are a couple of things Donkersloot will miss when she leaves Stewart the last time.
“I think I’m really just going to miss the anticipation of the kids on the rhythm of the year,” she said. “You know, there’s always been Halloween and then Christmas—all of the things school kids do and get excited for.”
Maureen Schneider also teaches kindergarten at Stewart Elementary School and will retire at the end of the year.
“This is 38 years,” Schneider said. “I started here [in the WCSD].”
She started teaching with Donkersloot at the elementary school in Brighton. When that school closed, she transferred to a school in town.
“I started out in the resource room and then went to first grade, then to kindergarten.” Schneider said.
Schneider said she really liked seeing her students progress through the school year.
“It’s just so much fun to see their progress, I think,” Schneider said. “From the beginning of the year to the end—they just grow so much.”
When she was asked what she would miss, Schneider immediately said the kids and the staff at Stewart Elementary School.
“It definitely keeps you young,” Schneider said. “It really does. Just being with the students, especially at this level. It’s so exciting for them. Every day is exciting for them. It just makes it fun.”
Schneider’s students also found out she was retiring during the school’s music program in April.
“I think at that music program was the first time they realized it,” she said.
Schneider said she has no immediate plans after she retires, except for relaxing. She hopes to stay connected with the school district through volunteering or by substitute teaching.
Adam Miller, the principal at Stewart Elementary School, has a special connection to Donkersloot and Schneider. He had Donkersloot and Schneider for teachers. Donkersloot was his kindergarten teacher and Schneider was his first-grade teacher.
“I remember Mrs. Donkersloot and Mrs. Schneider as such caring and loving teachers,” Miller said. “My fondest memories were around holidays at school—they always dressed the part and decorated their rooms for the seasons. It made for a fun learning environment. I really enjoyed my kindergarten and first-grade years and I know a great deal of that was because of them.”
Miller said both teachers have done a great job while at Stewart and will be greatly missed.
“I think I can speak for everyone around here when I share how much they will be missed at Stewart,” Miller said. “Teaching 5-and-6-year-old kindergartners is not an easy task. They do this with such a kind, gentle, and positive approach. They have definitely left their marks here at Stewart. There is no doubt that next year will be a little strange not having them in their rooms and walking the halls.”