The ringing of the afternoon bell next Tuesday will signal the end of the 2013-14 school year and the end of the careers for 20 retiring educators.
A May reception in the Fort Atkinson High School Instructional Materials Center recognized the year’s retirees in the School District of Fort Atkinson.
District administrators, staff and families gathered to salute the careers of Scott Arndt, Jim Athas, Dean Berkas, Susan Bradley, Rick Brietzke, Tom Cook, Lynn Dowgwillo, Shirley Erdman, Karen Gomez, Sharon Haupt, Susan Henn, Dennis Kraus, Ann Massoglia, Mike Murray, Barbara Nyland, Linda Schroeder, Peggy Stewart, Ann Wagie, Kay Woods and Vicki Wright.
District Administrator Jeff Zaspel noted that, collectively, the 20 individuals have served the School District of Fort Atkinson for more than 414 years.
“That number itself is truly impressive, yet we all know the real reason for our celebration today is about much more than an accumulation of time,” Zaspel said. “Today’s celebration is about acknowledging the many special moments of each of our honoree’s life work that has undeniably influenced our students, colleagues, our larger district and our community.”
The superintendent acknowledged that reception as a bittersweet celebration.
“As excited as we are for you to experience the next part of your life journey, we hate to see you go,” Zaspel said. “I know each of your decisions to retire was well thought out.”
He noted that for some it was an easy decision, and for others it was more difficult.
“It is not always easy to walk away from something that has been so meaningful and important — your life’s work,” Zaspel stated.
The administrator said he hoped the retirees were content in their decision and leave knowing that they have made a difference for many.
“Please know how grateful we are and how much we have been touched by your work,” he said.
“On behalf of the entire School District of Fort Atkinson, I wish each of you much happiness and all the best that retirement has to offer,” Zaspel said. “We have been truly blessed having you as colleagues and we will always know you as part of the School District of Fort Atkinson family.
“Thank you so very much and congratulations,” he concluded. “I can assure you that even though you won’t be back with us next school year that you won’t be forgotten and that your influence will be felt for many.”
Meanwhile, School District of Fort Atkinson Board of Education President Bob Chady also shared some remarks.
“As we prepare to close out the school year, we pause for a moment today to honor and recognize 20 individuals who are closing out their final school year in Fort Atkinson as they enter retirement,” Chady said.
“The term ‘retirement’ I’ll use loosely as it has different meaning to different people,” he added.
For some, he said, it marks the end of a paid working career; others might choose to continue working but in a different capacity. He suggested that some would occupy their time with volunteering and others with children, grandchildren and extended family, hobbies and travel.
“From what I have heard and from what I have seen is that your life will change,” Chady said. “You will likely be busier than you were pre-retirement, but the difference will be that it will be on your terms, your schedule and your interests.”
Reviewing the list of retirees, the school board president said what he saw was a caring and committed group of educators.
“From dedicated classroom teachers to support staff members to administrators ... you have all contributed to delivering the quality opportunities each student needs to achieve his or her academic and personal potential,” Chady observed.
Rather than focusing on their collective years of service, he suggested that the retirees take a harder look at the impact they have had through their careers on students.
As a parent of a graduating senior this year, Chady has been amazed at the growth that his son has experienced while under the care of Fort Atkinson educators.
“I can’t help but think of all the current and former students whom you have made an impact on,” he said.
Chady noted that the 2014 graduating class was awarded $1.3 million in scholarships.
For the recipients, he said, that is about the money and the ability to finance post-secondary education. However, for the educators, he said it should be about the idea that many students were honored and are planning to continue onward in their pursuit of knowledge.
“Take pride in knowing that you have prepared them well,” Chady said.
The board president pointed out that through the years each of the retirees has had a student or two which have required some special compassion or care — “students who have faced various challenges and may not have been as successful without your dedication to them.”
“Take pride in recognizing that you have contributed to their growth,” he said. “Your former students have gone on to bigger and better things, but they would not be where they are today without your contributions.”
The board president acknowledged that, today, the students likely do not recognize the difference their school district is making in their lives.
“The students yet to come your way, had you stayed, don’t know what they will be missing,” Chady said. “Your former students do.
“It is often not until one is out of school for some time that they reflect back with fond memories on those teachers, administrators and support staff members who contributed to who they are today,” he added. “As we honor your retirement this afternoon, take pride on a job well done.”
As part of the celebration, state Rep. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, and Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton, recognized the honorees with a state resolution.
“It is more challenging every day and every year that goes by, working with students,” Nass noted. “We legislators know because roughly 63 percent of students that graduate from high school will get some form of continuing education. Getting them to the end is critically important.”
He presented the resolution from the Legislature recognizing the honoress for their years of service to students and community.
“I have long said that everyone of us is born with the same opportunity, and that is the opportunity to make a difference,” Nass said. “All of you certainly have done that.”
Meanwhile, Jorgensen said he, too, wanted to thank the teachers for all that they do.
“This is a special time,” he reflected. “I wanted to say congratulations and I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for all the extra attention and love that you have given the students. Each of you has done that in your own special way.”
Quoting historian Henry Adams, the representative said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his or her influence ever stops.”
“That is so true, because long after today, long after you leave here, your influence continues on,” Jorgensen said of the retiring educators. “As you go into your next chapter in your life, there is another saying I like to use by an unknown author. It says ‘the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’”
With that in mind, he encouraged the group that if there is something they want to do, to not wait for it.
Meanwhile, following the remarks, Zaspel introduced each of the retirees.
Four retirees were not present for the ceremony. These included Scott Arndt, 23 1/2 years as a Fort Atkinson Middle School science teacher; Mike Murray, 11 years, Fort Atkinson High School, custodian; Peggy Stewart, four years, Rockwell Elementary School cook helper; and Kay Woods, eight years Fort Atkinson Middle School cook helper.
James R. Athas
James R. Athas is retiring after 24 years as a first grade teacher at Luther Elementary School.
A Fort Atkinson High School alumnus, he received a bachelor’s degree in music in 1977, in elementary education in 1990 and as a reading specialist in 1996, all from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Prior to teaching, Athas worked in a food processing plant in the 1980s and taught piano lessons. He currently is the music director at the First United Methodist Church in Whitewater and an adjunct instructor at UW-Whitewater.
Highlights for him include the many first grade plays he produced over the years, including the popular “Clifford: The Big Red Dog.”
In retirement, Athas intends to continue being involved in his church work and expand his opportunities in organ and piano lessons. He plans to do some substitute teaching and possibly teach summer school.
Athas says he also would like to write, arrange and publish music and/or children’s musicals. He also will be spending time with his new grandson and do some traveling.
Dean Berkas is retiring after 25 years adding up the numbers in math class at Fort Atkinson Middle School.
Prior to his tenure in the School District of Fort Atkinson, Berkas taught three years in Stoughton and 12 years at Northwood-Kensett Community Schools in Northwood, Iowa.
Berkas graduated from Richfield High School in Richfield, Minn. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Luther College in 1974, and master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UW-Whitewater in 2001.
In 1995, he was the National Awardee from Wisconsin of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching, and in 1994 he was the Wisconsin Nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching.
Berkas was recognized with the Wildermuth Award for Excellence in Education in 2008, Lion’s Club Educator of the Month in 2004 and twice was nominated for the Kohl Teacher Fellowship Award.
He feels a career highlight was teaching at Science World from 1993 to 1995 which was a science camp for eighth grade students that the Department of Public Instruction arranged.
Retirement plans for Berkas include hiking, biking, traveling, camping, cross-country skiing, working part-time for EdSights, (a mathematics consulting firm), spending time with family and volunteering.
Susan Bradley is retiring after 20 years as a special education teacher at Barrie Elementary School.
She graduated from Belle ville High School in 1971 and earned her bachelor’s degree from UW-Milwaukee in exceptional education/emotionally disturbed in 1975 and a master’s degree in learning disabilities from Minot State University, Minot, N.D., in 1985.
Before coming to Fort Atkinson, Bradley worked as an office clerk at Athens (Ohio) Police Department from 1975-76.
She also was a special education teacher/EBD in Beckley, W.V., from 1976 to 1980, and in Gallatin, Tenn., from 1980 to 1981. She was a childcare worker at La Petite Academy in Hendersonville, Tenn., from 1981-83; and a Special Education teacher/EBD in Minot, N.D., from 1985 to 1993.
While in Fort Atkinson, Bradley also worked part-time for 10 years at Blodgett Garden Center during summers.
During her tenure she was nominated for the Wildermuth Award in 2000, 2001 and 2014; named Teacher of the Day by WFAW in April 2000 and named Rotary Teacher of the Month in June 2009.
Now retired, she plans to do gardening at home and volunteer at Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Atkinson. In addition, she and her husband Scott, who is retiring from UW-Whitewater, plan to travel as much as possible, and spend time with their four children and grandchildren.
The couple also hope to contribute volunteer hours to different places such as the Fort Atkinson Food Pantry.
“Teaching is a team effort,” Bradley said, in offering some parting remarks to colleagues. “It would be very difficult to try to do this without the support of other staff members, administration and parents. That’s why it is vital to keep the lines of communication among all the parties involved as open and upfront as possible.
“Each day is a new day and every student needs the opportunity to show you his or her best self every day,” she continued. “Remember, the student you may agonize over or get frustrated with today may become your co-worker, your caretaker or even your boss in years to come.
“Everyone has a story and you may not know all the details, so be patient and kind, always,” Bradley concluded. “And be kind to yourself and your own family as well.”
After being principal at the same school for 26 years of his 36 years in education, Purdy Elementary School principal Rick Brietzke is retiring.
Brietzke was hired as Purdy principal in 1988, succeeding Russ Stevens when he assumed the top administrative duties at Barrie Elementary School.
He had served as an elementary principal in the Plymouth School District for four years, and as principal of the Parkview, Cascade and Parnell schools. He began his teaching career in the Sparta School District in 1978, serving as a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher and a unit leader. He was named as a teaching principal at the Cataract Elementary School near Sparta in 1982 and served in that capacity until moving to Plymouth.
He has been awarded Conservation Teacher of the Year and the Wisconsin State Reading Association Outstanding Administrator.
When asked for some career highlights, Brietzke said simply working for more than 36 years in a great and rewarding profession.
“I’ve had the great privilege to educate two generations of kids and work with their families, and their parents and their grandparents, and brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles ... it’s quite the honor,” he said.
He praised two people who have been instrumental in assisting him throughout his career, the first being Karen Hetts, his secretary of 26 years and his wife Sarah.
Brietzke proudly recalled Veterans Day programs, 23 years of Artists-in-Residence and the annual walk for the ducklings through the school to the wetland.
He also recalled the highlight of going to Washington D.C. with building and grounds director Dennis Kuchenmeister to receive the first-ever U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Award.
Within the district, Brietzke also was part of the team to develop the district’s Comprehensive LIteracy Model, and the focus on student achievement and growth.
In retirement, Brietzke plans to spend more time with his family, his wife Sarah, and children, Laura and Phillip.
He also plans to do more skiing, hunting, fishing, boating, conducting fitness workouts, biking, remodeling, forest and deer management, and traveling.
Brietzke says he still has some “gas in the tank” and plans to work part-time with student teachers, summer school, educator effectiveness and some literacy projects.
“Make each day the best day of your life and the lives of those around you,” the outgoing principal encouraged.
After 35 years — 24 at Fort Atkinson High School — instrumental music and band director Tom Cook is laying down his baton.
Cook is just the third band director at Fort Atkinson High School, following in the instrumental footsteps of Stuart Anhalt and Grayson Babcock.
He graduated in 1979 from the UW-LaCrosse where he earned a bachelor of science degree in instrumental music education. He earned his masters degree in music education from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago in 2000.
Cook began his teaching career in 1979 as director of bands in Stockton, Ill.
In 1984, he began teaching at Prairie du Chien High School. While at Prairie du Chien, his marching band earned two consecutive state championships in 1987 and 1988. Cook also was named Teacher of the Year by Prairie du Chien in 1986.
In 1990, Cook and his family moved to Fort Atkinson where they now reside.
At Fort Atkinson High School, Cook directs the marching band, the Jazz Lab Band, the Jazz Ensemble, Fourth Avenue Jazz Combo, Symphonic Band and various instrumental ensembles
The competitive marching program has grown into a contender at the Wisconsin School Music Association State Marching Band Championships and earned second place in 1999, 2000 and 2013, along with a State Championship in 2003.
The Wind Ensemble consistently has received Division I ratings in Class A festivals and was selected to perform at the 2000 Wisconsin State Band Directors Association Convention. The Jazz Ensemble has garnered many awards at festivals throughout the Midwest in the past 10 years, including a national championship at the Branson, Mo., Fame Jazz Cup Festival in 2003.
Under Cook’s direction, the Fourth Avenue Jazz Combo has earned best back-up combo awards at multiple show choir invitationals over the past 20 years.
For retirement, he plans to not be at the school 48 weekends a year and all summer long.
Cook plans to be a musician in the band Wall of Sound and join two other bands. He also hopes to refurbish his sailboat and dune buggy, and travel away from Wisconsin during the winter.
In his typical whimsical way, he offered the following words of advice and music: “Don’t tug on Superman’s cape, don’t pee against the wind, never whittle towards yourself and don’t mess around with Jim.”
Lynn Dowgwillo is putting down her pencil after 16 years as a math teacher.
She taught for six years at Fort Atkinson Middle School and 10 years at Fort Atkinson High School.
A graduate of Green Bay Southwest High School, she received her bachelor’s degree in math and psychology from UW-Whitewater in 1973 and a secondary education certification in 1998. Dowgwillo picked up her masters degree in education, with an emphasis in alternative education, from Marian University.
Prior to her teaching career, she worked at Jefferson County Human Services in the area of child abuse and neglect prevention.
During her tenure in the Fort Atkinson school district she was a Wildermuth Award nominee and a Kohl Fellowship finalist.
Dowgwillo also was a math team coach at both the middle and high schools, and is a member of Wisconsin Math Council and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Together with Linda Schroeder, she helped develop the Aleks program for students who needed more support with math as well as students looking for enrichment with the Advanced Placement Statistics course.
Her retirement plans include sleeping in, doing some knitting, traveling, gardening, reading and generally spending more time with family, including her husband Michael and three children, Erin, Matthew and Nicholas.
“In this age of standardized testing, we can get overly focused on those important scores,” Dowgwillo offered as parting remarks. “Relationships won’t be directly measured on those tests, but it’s an important part of what we do as teachers.
“I would like to express my sincere thanks to all my administrators and co-workers for your mentoring, support, sharing and friendship,” she said. “It’s been a good 16 years and you all made it possible.”
Shirley Erdman is retiring after serving as a cook’s helper at Rockwell and Luther Elementary schools for eight years.
A Fort Atkinson High School alumnus, she attended IBM School in St. Louis.
Before coming to the district, Erdman was a legal secretary, owner and operator of “The Tasty Corner,” and food and beverage manager of a local golf course.
In addition, she has owned and operated an estate sales and household sales business for 35 years.
She and her husband Steve have one son, Trent, whom she will watch race at the Jefferson Speedway.
Also in retirement, Erdman plans to collect antiques, old Christmas items, watch NASCAR races and do some traveling.
Karen Gomez retires after 33 years as an art teacher at Purdy and Luther Elementary schools.
She graduated from Albert Lea High School in Albert Lea, Minn. Gomez received her degree in art education with a minor in speech from UW-Stout, and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UW-Whitewater in 1996.
Her entire teaching career has been in the School District of Fort Atkinson.
She was named Wisconsin Elementary Art Educator of the Year in 2004 and recognized as a Kohl Fellowship winner in 2009.
Gomez recalls working alongside retired music teacher Tom Ryan to create original operas. Other highlights includes organizing several artist-in-residence programs, several resulting pieces of which remain on display at Purdy and Luther, including clay stomp works at Purdy and large wall mosiacs.
“Many large projects were the focus of our art shows to reflect the importance of the arts to students which included collaborative projects as well as musical performances,” Gomez said. “I also had involvement in the Hoard Art Show and the Cygnus (Ernie Pope Memorial) art show to showcase student art in the community.
“My goal as an art teacher has been to make sure that all my students are successful, that they have an appreciation for the arts, and that staff, school board members, families and the community see that importance,” she added.
A member of the Black Hawk Artists Group, Gomez exhibits her work every November at the Hoard Historical Museum and at the Mary Hoard Art Show in the spring. She works primarily as a collage artist but also creates handmade books, watercolors and acrylic paintings.
Her most recent show was at the Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton in an exhibit entitled “Love Remembered.”
She and her husband, Benjamin, have two children, Jenny and Joan, and four grandchildren, Lilly, Orion, Preston and Jaden.
“I have enjoyed teaching art all these years and will miss my students immensely,” Gomez said. “They made me laugh, surprised me, challenged me and constantly amazed me. I will miss the smiles, hugs and cheers.
“I’m always amazed when I get applause when demonstrating a project,” she said. “Now I embark on a new chapter in my life, and I am looking forward to having the time and the energy to create my own art.”
Sharon Haupt is retiring after 45 years as administrative assistant to the School District of Fort Atkinson Information Technology director/copy center.
A Fort Atkinson High School alumnus, she was born and raised in the Town of Hebron.
In December 2013, Haupt was awarded the Support Staff of the Month award.
Her plans for retirement include spending more time with family, including her husband Jack and daughter Jennifer; traveling, reading and relaxing.
Susan Henn is retiring after 10 years as the district’s gifted and talented education (GATE) coordinator.
Henn spent more than 20 years in the field of gifted education, while also having past careers in youth ministry and interior design.
A graduate from Natrona County High School in Casper, Wyo., she received her studio art and geology degrees from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., in 1981.
Henn earned her education degree from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, in 1993, and masters in professional development with an emphasis on gifted education from Cardinal Stritch University in 1999.
Among her career highlights were giving presentations on gifted issues over the past 20 years including at the National Association for Gifted Children Conference, the Wisconsin and Illinois Associations for Talented and Gifted conferences, Challenging Advanced Learners Academy, and the Sloan Consortium Blended Learning Conference.
Henn was a Wildermuth Award nominee in 2010.
Her retirement plans are to “create, ponder, pray, wonder, celebrate, reflect, paint, design, read, share and experience awe.”
“Notice beauty, value friendship, and laugh long and hard,” were Henn’s parting words of advice.
Dennis Kraus is retiring after 13 years as the custodian at Luther Elementary School.
A Fort Atkinson High School alumnus, he previously worked at Schweiger Industries in Jefferson, the former Ladish Malt (now Valero) in Jefferson and J-Star Industries.
He and his wife Rosalie have two children and one grandchild, with another expected in July.
Kraus’ retirement plans include spending time with his family, going to flea markets, gun shows and car shows.
Ann Massoglia is retiring after after 34 1/2 years as a speech-language pathologist at Barrie Elementary School.
In addition to her duties in the School District of Fort Atkinson, she has been a lecturer at the UW-Whitewater for 20 years teaching Language Development and Disorders in Children. Several teachers from Fort Atkinson have taken her course.
A Milton High School graduate, Massoglia received her degrees from UW-Whitewater, earning her bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders in 1978 and her masters degree in communicative disorders in 1980.
Her career highlights include serving as the cooperating teacher/supervisor for the communicative sciences and disorders department of the UW-Whitewater, supervising more than 100 student teachers and/or practicum students, receiving the Wildermuth Award for Educational Excellence and being a nominee for Kohl Fellowship Award.
Massoglia said her retirement plans include running, moutain biking, playing tennis, having a good cup of coffee and conversation with friends, and taking quiet walks with her family.
“I will leave the Fort Atkinson school district confident that I have made a positive impact on the learning community here and that the speech-language program will continue to be a vital part of what makes the Fort Atkinson school district exceptional,” she stated in her parting remarks. “I am ready in my own life for new challenges, time with my family, and new opportunities to make a difference. Thank you all for being my loving and caring family for the last 34 1/2 years.”
Barbara Nyland is retiring after 13 years in the School District of Fort Atkinson.
She spent 11 years teaching kindergarten at Purdy Elementary School, and two years teaching art and music to all kindergarten classes in the district.
A graduate of Pardeeville High School, she earned her bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison in early childhood education in 1977.
Prior to coming to Fort Atkinson, she taught in the Watertown and Oconomowoc school districts, a private school in Milwaukee, and Lutheran Social Services mainly at the preschool or kindergarten level.
Asked about her career highlights, Nyland noted that a highlight happens every day when teaching kindergarten.
Her retirement plans include spending time with her family, including two children and two grandchildren. She also has some projects at home that she claims have been on her “to do list” for the past 10 summers.
Nyland said she also would like to enjoy some of her hobbies including golfing, hiking, reading, traveling and kayaking.
Her advice is to read the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum, and believes the world would be a kinder and perhaps a little less stressful place.
A few excerpts from the book are: “Share everything; play fair; don’t hit people; put things back where you found them; clean up your own mess; say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody; wash your hands before you eat.
She offers the following quote, from an unknown author, that helped her through her years of teaching, and devoting so much time and care to other families: “Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, young or old alike, and today may be the last chance you get to hold your loved one tight. So if you’re waiting for tomorrow, why not do it today?
“For if tomorrow never comes, you’ll surely regret the day that you didn’t take that extra time for a smile, a hug or a kiss, and you were too busy to grant someone what turned out to be their one last wish.
“So hold your loved ones close today, and whisper in their ear, tell them how much you love them and that you’ll always hold them dear. Take time to say ‘I’m sorry’ ‘Please forgive me, ‘Thank you’ or ‘It’s okay!’ And if tomorrow never comes, you’ll have no regrets about today.”
Linda Schroeder is retiring after 26 years in the Fort Atkinson High School math department. She also taught five years at Whitewater High School.
A graduate of Beloit Catholic High School, Schroeder received her bachelor’s degree from UW-Whitewater in mathematics and secondary education, and earned her masters degree from St. Mary’s University in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on educational technology.
Highlights of her tenure in Fort Atkinson include multiple nominations for the Wildermuth Award, working with Don Wahl as a student teacher and then getting hired to work with him.
Most rewarding of all for Schroeder has been receiving the many thank you notes from her students and hearing of their success.
Schroeder said her retirement plans include enjoying the family farm, traveling, spending time with her husband Jim, her children and five grandchildren, all of whom live in Fort Atkinson.
She plans on volunteering in the community, watching Packers games without a lap full of papers to correct, and taking time for hobbies such as gardening, reading, crocheting, knitting and sewing for the grandkids.
“Be proud of what you are doing for students,” Schroeder told her fellow teachers. “You can make a difference for these kids. Remember that each of these students is someone’s son or daughter.”
She encouraged her colleagues to treat the students as if they were their own son or daughter.
“I remembered being told early in my career that the student who is the least lovable is the student who needs your kindness the most,” Schroeder said. “This challenge is what I tried to remember and practice. There is good in every student.”
Lastly, she extended thanks to the district overall and the high school math department.
“The staff here at FAHS has always been very supportive and helpful. Everyone here works as a team,” Schroeder said. “Be proud of that. Stay positive and work together.”
Ann Wagie is retiring after 27 years as a kindergarten teacher at Barrie Elementary School.
A graduate of Warren High School, she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1976 and masters in elementary education in 1987 from UW-Whitewater.
“Not only does Ann have a legacy for having the best classroom in the district, she also has left a legacy of impacting children's lives in so many positive ways,” Barrie principal Brent Torrenga said. “There is no doubt that Mrs. Wagie receives more hugs from students in a day than what most of us will receive in our careers.
“With a combination of strong academic instruction, firm yet loving direction, and a strong dedication to her students, Mrs. Wagie will be missed,” he added.
The retiree cites being recognized with the district’s Wildermuth Award for Excellence in Education and working with her colleagues at Barrie as career highlights.
Wagie and her husband Dennis have two children, Amy Wagie and Katie Passage, with grandchildren arriving this summer.
Her retirement plans include biking, walking, working in her flower gardens and helping with her soon-to-be grandchildren.
“Keep a sense of humor and love what you are doing,” Wagie advised.
Vicki Wright is retiring after 12 years as principal of Rockwell Elementary School and many more years in education.
A native of northern Wisconsin, she began her teaching career in Kingston, Jamaica, where she taught language arts, mathematics and life skills as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. While there, she also taught at the Immaculate Conception Girls School.
From 1976 to 1989, Wright taught home economics at Johnson Creek High School. A career highlight was being named State Teacher of the Year in 1983 and Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 1984.
Wright became the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Program coordinator for the Fort Atkinson school district in 1989. She was named district associate director of instruction in 2000.
In the fall of 2002, Wright was named acting principal of Rockwell Elementary School. She was responsible for hiring 75 percent of the current Rockwell Elementary staff.
“As I look back on my career, I am very proud of my years of working with students,” Wright said. “That is why all of us become educators — to touch the lives of children.”
A graduate of Osceola High School, she earned degrees in home economics from UW-Stout, gifted education from UW-Whitewater and administration from UW-Madison.
Her retirement plans include rest, reading books she wants to read that are not related to educational theory or leadership, gardening, exercise and generally figuring out what the next stage in her life will be.
During her last administrative class, someone asked Wright why. at her age. she wanted to go into administration. Her reply was, “Well, I’m not dead yet.”
She maintains that attitude heading into retirement.
“There is something very purposeful out there for me — I just need to figure it out,” Wright said.
She and her husband, Peter, have two children, Matthew and Tiffany, and grandchildren, James, Adaline, Claire and one yet to be determined.
“Follow your dreams and work to make it happen,” Wright told her friends and colleagues. “Never allow yourself to say, ‘I should have done that.’”