Outgoing educators: 'Such a joy to teach'

Over two century's worth of educator experience is retiring this spring from the world of teaching in the surrounding area. Seven teachers in the local area, each totalling over 30 years of experience, are calling it a wrap. Carolyn Strobel and D...

School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)
School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)

Over two century's worth of educator experience is retiring this spring from the world of teaching in the surrounding area.

Seven teachers in the local area, each totalling over 30 years of experience, are calling it a wrap.

Carolyn Strobel and Deb Schaeffer of Menno School District; Brenda Waterbury of Chamberlain School District; Karon Stevens of Wessington Springs School District; Vicki Harmdierks and David Reuland of Mitchell School District; and Kandy Punt of Mount Vernon School District are retiring as educators.

This group's most tenured professional, with 44 years' experience, is Deb Schaeffer, Menno School District.

Schaeffer most enjoyed her students' enthusiasm for learning and taking on new challenges.


She said she will always remember her students.

"It has been such a joy to teach and live in a small community where many of my former students live or have a family here," said Schaeffer.

She said she loves that she has been able to watch and hear about how her past students have grown into fantastic adults.

"Some I have had the pleasure of having their children as my students," noted Schaeffer.

She also said she even has had the blessing of calling some of these former students colleagues in teaching.

"They have provided me with so much joy, exasperation, love, kindness, and a reason to get going each day," said Schaeffer.

Schaeffer added that she will also miss the parents and fellow staff members she had the blessing of working alongside.

"They have been a very supportive group in spite of my mistakes. They also were my inspiration to grow myself as a teacher and always do my best for my students," she said.


Schaefer's retirement plans include being a farmer's wife and doing some of the jobs she "has not really missed." She will also substitute teach in her former school district, travel to visit family and friends, and volunteer in the community.

Schaeffer had a lot to say about advice she gives to fellow educators.

"I would tell young beginning teachers to never be afraid to ask your fellow staff members questions. They will be glad to help in any way they can. Secondly, always be honest with parents and students; treat them with kindness and respect and they will return it."

Schaeffer also noted that, "Some days you may wonder why in the world you are doing the job you are."

"Remember on these days the moments when a student suddenly has a light bulb turn on and you will feel such joy," said Schaeffer.

She also said never forget the power of positive reinforcement.

"There may be a student who just needs a kind word in their day and you will be there to give it," said Schaeffer.

Carolyn Strobel


The next most tenured professional of the group, with 43 years' experience, is Carolyn Strobel, Menno School District.

Strobel said she always had a variety in her job that kept her passionate.

"There was always something new I had to do or wanted to do," she said.

Strobel said the memorable times in her career will always be seeing her students succeed.

The students will be the biggest thing she will miss.

"They are the reason to be an educator," Strobel said.

Strobel's retirement plans include working on projects, relaxing, and spending more time with friends and family.

Strobel's advice to future educators is, "Be the person that a student feels they can turn to; having one adult they can trust makes all the difference in their lives."

Brenda Waterbury

Next in the group, with 41 years' experience, is Brenda Waterbury, Chamberlain School District.

Waterbury said that she loved her career at Chamberlain.

"I will be sad when a new school year begins and I am not part of it," she said.

Waterbury added that she remained passionate about teaching because of the opportunity it gave her to change and grow her students as individuals.

"I absolutely love kids, and it is rewarding to know that you have helped them on their journey to adulthood," Waterbury said.

The ability to change what and how she taught kept her rejuvenated in her passion for her career.

Waterbury noted that it has been interesting to see changes in teaching and technology throughout her 41-year career.

"I have literally switched gears from using Ditto machines to computers, and have enjoyed each new advancement in technology. My old electric typewriter seemed a miracle when I first bought it, but that was soon replaced by even better products," she said.

Waterbury said it has been a very challenging and rewarding career, and what she will miss most are the relationships formed between her, the students, and the parents.

"I will forever cherish those relationships and memories the most," she said.

Waterbury's retirement plans include staying active within the school and possibly substitute teaching, relaxing, fishing with her husband, and renewing her interest in photography.

Waterbury's advice for future educators is, "Make learning in your classroom challenging, but also fun."

Karon Stevens

Next in the group, with 38 years' experience, is Karon Stevens, Wessington Springs School District title teacher.

Stevens said that she loved working with students and helping them become lifelong learners.

"I will remember all the precious students I have worked with and the joy they gave me every day."

She said what she will miss most is the students who always made her day.

Stevens' retirement plans include spending more time with family and friends.

Stevens' advice to future educators is, "Make a difference in your students' lives, and teach to impact them forever."

Vicki Harmdierks

Next in the group, with 35 years' experience, is Vicki Harmdierks, Mitchell School District.

Harmdierks describes her career with one of her favorite quotes, "Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life."

"I truly love working with kids and watching them grow emotionally and academically," Harmdierks said.

She never thought of going to school as work.

"It was just a positive part of my life that I was blessed to do for the past 35 years," Harmdierks said.

What she says she will remember most about the job is the friendships, colleagues, and the generations of families she was able to work with.

She also said she was fortunate enough to teach and coach two of her own children in elementary and high school.

She will miss the students the most about the job.

"The last day of school was very hard, knowing that I will not be coming back in the fall," Harmdierks said.

As far as Harmdierks' retirement plan, she said that she is excited about having a flexible schedule to spend more time with her husband and grandchildren.

She also said she would like to spend time in her workshop and be creative.

"I love making wood signs and projects," said Harmdierks.

Harmdierks' advice for future educators is, "Make every student feel like they are your favorite, build trusting relationships with them and their families."

She also said, "Don't be afraid to try new things, because growth happens at the edge of your comfort zone."

Kandy Punt

Next in the group, with 34 years' experience, is Kandy Punt, Mount Vernon School District. Punt taught middle school and high school English.

"I have so many great memories of my 34 years, but I will cherish the memories of being part of the school community the most," Punt said.

Punt said that there is a much bigger picture to be seen with teaching than just the common opinion or day-to-day view.

"When you teach, you are part of something much greater than just yourself, and it's not something I've felt in any other job," she said.

Punt said she will miss the amazing faculty and students she got to work with throughout her career that have formed her into the person she is today.

Punt's retirement plan is to continue teaching online through DIAL services, and to join the staff at the Stickney Argus as a reporter and feature writer.

"That has been something I have missed greatly in the past few years," Punt said.

Punt will continue her work on a children's book, utilizing a former student as the illustrator.

She will also read some of the books she has desired to get to, but hasn't had time with her busy career.

Punt's advice for future educators is, "Love what you do or find a different path."

David Reuland

The final group member, with 32 years' experience, is David Reuland, Mitchell School District.

Reuland started his first 15 years of teaching in the Plankinton School District and spent the last 17 years in the Mitchell School District as the high school automotive technology teacher.

Reuland said he has always enjoyed learning about new technology in the automobile industry, and explaining it to the students who will be involved with it in their careers.

"My students won the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills state competition four times and Skills USA Automotive state competition four times," Reuland said.

Those students then went on to national competitions.

Reuland said, "Training students to be competitive on a national level is a tremendous reward."

Reuland said he will definitely miss getting to know the students each year.

"These have been some of the best people I have ever had the opportunity to work with," Reuland said.

Reuland's retirement plan is to continue to teach auto repair online for schools that do not have a program.

Reuland and his son rebuilt a Dodge Challenger last summer, and he looks forward to travelling to different races around the U.S.

He will also spend time working on his family farm.

Reuland's advice to future educators is, "Choose the teaching profession because you like to help young people grow and be successful and you will enjoy every day."


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