EDMOND — The retirement of five educators at the end of the school year will leave quite a footprint behind at Clegern Elementary School, officials said.
Retiring school counselor Vicki Thorpe, Principal Bill Powell, speech language pathologist Jayme Howell, fifth-grade teacher Diane Paine and librarian Sherry Park have more than a century of combined experience.
A reception is planned for 3:45 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the school, 601 S Jackson. Administrators welcome past and current students and their family members.
“The kids keep on asking me what will happen if they don't get another librarian. They keep on asking me who will read with them,” said Park, who has been a librarian for 28 years. “I keep assuring them that someone will. But they don't like change.”
Park, an Oklahoma City native, received an undergraduate degree in Spanish and a master's degree in library science from the University of Oklahoma.
To make learning an interactive process, she often dresses up as historical figures the students are learning about. Her most recent characters have included a Greek goddess named “Lightening Librarian” and a Viking she called “Brunhilde.”
Park, 62, admitted to offering her homemade jam and chili as a bribe to get employees to volunteer at the library.
After retiring, she plans to take piano and cooking classes, brush up on her Spanish and go on a motorcycle trip with friends.
Howell, a Midwest City native, acquired her pilot's license at age 50.
“It took a long time and it didn't come naturally to me, but that's part of the reason I'm proud of it,” she said.
Howell said her father wanted to get his pilot license while serving in the military but couldn't because he was color blind.
Her father worked as a Transportation Department engineer, and her mother was a secretary for a school district, mostly, Howell said, to pay for her education.
“She wanted me to have a profession and be independent. There were no limits with what they wished for me,” the speech language pathologist said of her parents. “I had a wonderful life growing up.”
Howell said her mother, 85, and father, 90, will attend the reception.
Paine also said her parents were her role models. Her father was a supervisor for a railroad and hired Paine as an operations clerk before she started her teaching career.
“He was a hardworking man,” Paine said.
Paine, who has taught for 22 years, said she tries to impart to her students the lessons of hard work that her father gave her.
“When they learn about these heroes who didn't start out with a silver spoon in their mouth and had to instead overcome many obstacles, I want them to learn about the self-pride that comes with that,” she said.
Her parent's pictures hang on her classroom wall.
Paine said her mother put her family's needs ahead of her own. After retiring, Paine plans to spend time with her husband, children, grandchildren and her mother, who lives in an assisted living facility.
Making an impact
Thorpe said she feels blessed to know she has made an impact on the lives of students.
“At their age they are just beginning to learn how to treat people and how to communicate. This is where their foundation comes from,” the retiring counselor said.
She said the best rewards are the thank-yous she gets from past students.
“To see that they've solved a conflict on the playground or even at home with a sibling because of something I've told them just warms my heart,” she said.
Thorpe has been in the education system 22 years and said her family will celebrate her retirement by taking a summer trip to California.
Powell has served as an administrative intern, teacher, assistant principal and principal during the many years he spent in education. He earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Kansas State University and a master's degree in education administration.
“I've been here long enough that I'm the principal of children whose parents were my students,” he said. “It's a hoot.”
Powell said education has been such an influence in his life that he named his dog after President Harry Truman, who said, “The buck stops here.”
“That's how I feel as principal sometimes,” Powell said with a laugh.
He said his goal as principal has been to make a school feel welcoming.
“If these guys can say that they've loved their time here, then I feel successful,” he said.
Powell said Northern Hills Assistant Principal Teri Cowden-Draper will take over as principal at Clegern in the fall.