With this year’s batch of retirees, Maquoketa schools loses 406 years of educational experience. Seven teachers retired, along with four teacher associates, a nurse/teacher, a custodian, and a school secretary.

Among those retiring were two sets of teachers and associates who had worked together for decades: teacher Amy Streff and teacher associate Sherryl Caven, and teacher Joyce Lansing and associate Connie Winch.

“That’s something I will miss,” Streff said, gesturing toward Caven. “We can finish each other’s sentences. It’s like we’re married.”

Lansing and Winch wore matching “Senior Survivor” T-shirts and joked that they finally got to leave school after years as super-seniors, having finally “outlasted,” “outplayed” and “outwitted” the rest.

Their partnership is based on complementary abilities: Winch describes Lansing as the “brainy” one, while Winch is crafty and computer-savvy.

A good teacher-associate partnership allows the teacher to keep an eye on the whole classroom while the associate focuses on individual needs. Over lunch, Winch and Lansing said that they would catch up on how the day was going for their students.

The Sentinel-Press asked some of the retirees to share a story that made them laugh, to share their plans for future adventures, and to share what sensory memories they’ll miss (or not) in a school setting. 

Excerpts are in their own words.

Bill Renner

Renner is retiring as a middle school math teacher after 22 years in Maquoketa schools.

“A story from my time in teaching that makes me laugh has to do with a young man that was not enjoying his educational experience. Apparently he was not having a good day. When he entered my classroom, he was muttering to himself. I instructed my class to take a seat, get quiet, and to get out a piece of paper and a pencil. This is when I heard the young man say, ‘I can’t wait until I’m old enough to quit school.’

“I approached the student and told him that I was very sorry to hear he was having those feelings and inquired as to why he felt that way. He said, ‘I’m tired of taking orders from all of my teachers.’ I expressed concerns as to how he thought he would be able to get a job and support himself if he quit school. 

“He said, ‘That won’t be a problem because I plan on going to the Marine Corp.’ I found it ironic and laughable that his solution to escape taking orders was to join what some consider the toughest branch of the military. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when this young man had his first encounter with his drill instructor. I can’t help but believe that he would have a whole new outlook on what ‘taking orders’ was all about.’”

What will he miss? “There are several things I will miss about being in a school setting. I will miss the celebrity status that teachers get. Being in front of an audience that looks to you to make learning entertaining and getting recognized both inside and outside of school by students who can’t wait to announce, ‘That’s Mr. Renner, my math teacher.’

“I will also miss the sense of purpose that teaching gives. The opportunities to connect with my students, the challenge of recognizing and appreciating the uniqueness of each child. The satisfaction of helping them grow and the excitement on their faces when they really “get” something, knowing I played a part in it.

“Last, I will also miss the camaraderie of working with other professionals who have the same goal of positively impacting the lives of our students. It has been a pleasure to get to know and work alongside so many wonderful people. 

What won’t he miss? “There are several things that I won’t miss in a school setting. I won’t miss people that are lazy and refuse to even try. I won’t miss people with negative attitudes. I also won’t miss students whose only goal in coming to class is to be disruptive and to interfere with the learning of others. Last, I won’t miss the lack of respect many teachers are currently experiencing.

“My plans for the future are open. My first focus will be on my health. I want to take better care of myself, get more exercise, lose some weight, and get my blood pressure down. I want to relax and unwind before making a decision about future job opportunities.

“I look forward to trying new things. I’ve already had many suggestions from family and friends about what I should do once I’m retired. I will take their advice into consideration, but ultimately I will do what makes me happy.”

Joyce Lansing

Lansing is retiring as a special education teacher after 43 years in Maquoketa schools.

“Several years ago, I remember coming to school one day and realized I had two different shoes on. I was mortified! I did not do this on purpose, although I probably should have told people I did. I decided to make a joke out of it and ended up buying a soda for the first student who noticed.

“I will miss the smell of popcorn radiating throughout the building when there’s a home athletic event. I will miss football Friday mornings before school with the sound of various fight songs being played near the office. I will miss the excitement of the students on the day we have a field trip.

“I won’t miss trying to encourage students to spend time at home doing homework. I won’t miss trying to convince students why it’s important to continue to work on improving their reading, writing, and math skills and to keep working on these skills, especially over the summer.

“I’m looking forward to the freedom to take trips anywhere and anytime my schedule allows.”

Angie Burmahl

Burmahl is retiring as a second-grade teacher after 34 years in the Maquoketa schools.

“One Monday morning, a second grade student looked at me and said, ‘Mrs. Burmahl, you must not feel very good today. You don’t look so good and your hair is really a mess today.’

“Later that very same week, a parent came in to talk to me about something and stopped mid-sentence, looked and me and said, ‘I’m glad to see you decided to wear your make-up today. Last time I saw you, I don’t think you had any on.’

“So evidently, it wasn’t one of my best weeks!”

What she’ll miss:

“Smell: The smell of a clean, ‘first day of school,’ fall classroom filled with new backpacks, new shoes, new school supplies, new clothes...

“Sound: The sound of teachers laughing and talking together, supporting each other (especially my teaching team).

“Sight: Students coming toward you with big smiles and open arms ready for a hug.

“Taste: The delicious food at the staff potlucks.

“Texture: The feel of a little hand slipping into mine as we walk down the hallway.

“What won’t I miss?The pressure from state and national mandates that force teachers to push, push, push, more and faster, and the constant required assessments.

“I plan to do some substitute teaching, spend lots of time in my yard and garden, catch up on some home projects, spend some time with friends, and join the retired teachers group that seems to have one adventure after another.

“I am also looking forward to my husband and I enjoying some travel time. August tends to be his ‘down time’ on the farm and I was always setting my room up and getting ready for the start of a new school year. Now we will be able to plan some travel time and extra time with our kids and families.”

Paulette Horner

Horner is retiring as a nurse and teacher after 27 years in Maquoketa schools.

“There is not a day that does by that I don’t laugh. Usually it’s at myself! One particular time was not in the classroom, though. I am the HOSA advisor, and my members wanted to go ice skating. I used to skate a lot as a teen but had not since. But I’m game to try anything. I am doing the outer rim circling of the rink when I fell, and not very gracefully. You know the saying ‘You know you’re old when no one laughs when you fall.’ The members who saw it happen had horrified looks on their faces until I started laughing hysterically. They asked if I was okay and I stated, ‘No, I can’t figure out how to stand up without falling again!’

“I will greatly miss seeing the students each day. Any time I’m in the hall the students call out Blitz (our therapy dog) and/or my name. Greeting them throughout the day makes me feel so very happy. MCHS students are such amazing kids and I am going to miss that day-to-day contact.

“What won’t I miss? Filing, writing lesson plans, doing curriculum mapping

“Future? The immediate future includes a trip to Jamaica with my daughter the first part of June. A trip to Florida with HOSA the third week of June, and a week and a half watching our granddaughters while on vacation in July. My sister and I also want to take a trip somewhere while I am off both jobs this summer. In a year and a half, we hope to move to Earlham, Iowa, to be by our granddaughters and closer to both of our children. I am going to miss Maquoketa horribly because it is a great city to live! But those granddaughters changed our lives immensely.”

Karen Streif

Streif is retiring as an art teacher after 38 years in Maquoketa schools.

“Years ago, when I was the art teacher at Cardinal, my students knew I took attendance right away when they came in. The kindergarten class came in, and a little girl rushed to my desk to tell me a student would be gone because ‘She had the chicken pops!’

“This year I was demonstrating the potter’s wheel to my eighth graders. This was my 33rd year teaching the potter’s wheel. Several special needs students were watching my every move as I demonstrated. I paused while giving the directions and the one of the young man started to clap his hands to applaud me! That had never happened before for the potter’s wheel. It was so sweet!

“I will miss the sight of opening the kiln after a glaze firing and being the first to see how their clay projects turned out! Add to that the students’ faces as they saw what color their glazes changed to! And then believing I had not lied to them that they would change colors. 

“I will not miss the paint stains on my clothes and clay dust.

“I am excited to get to focus on MY projects now. I can go in to ‘project mode’ and tackle all the good ideas I have overflowing my closets, drawers and storage room. Fun things like finishing my grandma’s quilt, organizing my collection of family history, especially the old photos. I will be content at my happy place... our home by the woods. Most of all, spending time with my wonderful, supportive husband who just smiles when I finish another project!”

Denise Krum

Krum is retiring as a language arts teacher after 15 years at Maquoketa High School.

“One story that comes to mind is when I walked in to my classroom years ago, only to find that my room had been duct-taped everywhere by none other than my former student, Dan Wardell (IPTV) and some friends! It took me forever to get into my desk!

“Another story from here would be when I came around my desk in front of my class, and I tripped over the computer cord and fell face first to the floor! I just wanted to walk out of the room! I was so embarrassed!

“One smell I will miss is the food smells coming from the Family and Consumer room. I will also miss the smell of my room from all of the Glade fresheners! I will miss the sounds of music from the band room and choir rooms so much!

“One smell I won’t miss is the smells from the labs in the science rooms! Also I will not miss the ringing of the alarms for the tornado and fire drills! 

“I am planning on seeking a part-time job and spending my time reading, dancing and taking day trips! And of course I can’t wait to spend more time with my children and grandchildren!” 

Linda Polk

Polk is retiring as an elementary music teacher after 36 years in Maquoketa schools.

“One year, there was a kindergartener sitting in the hallway, struggling to get his boots on. The other students were all outside at recess and there he sat. So, I helped him pull on his boots, which turned out to be a major struggle. We finally got his boots on, and I asked him if he was sure these were his boots. He told me no. So I pulled the boots back off of him. He then told me that the boots belonged to his sister but that he had to wear them anyways as they were ‘hand-me-downs!’

“I will miss the excitement the students project as they learn the lyrics, songs and dances at Christmas time. You can see the excitement and glowing that shows on the students’ faces, as they prepare for the show. They are so excited to be getting dressed up and are thrilled to be performing for the staff, family and friends! 

“I won’t miss trying to get ready for a spring music concert while working around snow days and not having enough time for rehearsals!

“I also will not miss the flu season or trying to teach when I have laryngitis!

“I will love having more time for family and friends, time to go biking, antique shopping, reading books and traveling. 

“I can finally sing ‘School’s Out Forever!’”