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Staff, retirees saluted at school recognition event

Laurie Andrews was honored as an outgoing board member at the Ellsworth School District's recognition dinner Thursday.1 / 2
Employees with 15 years of service were honored at the Ellsworth School District's recognition dinner Thursday. Among them were: Mary Hanson, high school paraprofessional, Loni Johnson, Prairie View library media assistant, Mary Lewien, high school/middle school art teacher, and Michelle Moore, high school English/theater teacher. Another was Timothy Shock, high school/middle school tech ed teacher. Photos by Bill Kirk.2 / 2

Employees stepped into the spotlight at the Ellsworth School District's 26th annual recognition dinner Thursday.

Those honored for their service ranged from bus drivers, including Dennis Anderson, Geanna Austin and Richard Foley, with 35 years, plus Kenneth Kinneman with 30 years, to outgoing Board Member Laurie Andrews.

Then there were the retirees, whose stories as told by others as well as themselves, drew nostalgia, a few tears, but mainly a lot of laughs. They are: Kathleen Birkel, Hillcrest second grade teacher, Daniel Butt, middle school special education teacher, Debra Foy, Prairie View first grade teacher, Bill Fuller, high school assistant principal, Warren Johnson, high school English teacher, Ida Lewis, Hillcrest first grade teacher, Craig Olson, high school science teacher, and Dennis Olson, Hillcrest fourth grade teacher.

Seven of the eight spoke and peers spoke about them. The following are highlights:

--Mary Zimmerman and Barb Johnson were Fuller's speakers. Zimmerman, who knew him from Plum City, remembered a student who'd leave that school at random and run past its front windows, whereupon Fuller would be seen running past them and after him. He "allowed" her to organize the annual senior class trip to Washington, D.C. and New York City, during which security showed up at their hotel because of a shaving cream fight, wanting to have the group's leader identified. When Fuller walked out with a Mohawk of cream atop his head, she pointed and said, "that's him!" Johnson wondered whether he should be toasted or roasted. She recalled Fuller consistently having all of the Prairie View students' names memorized by noon on opening day of each school term, going around and "high-fiving" them. When a Twin Cities TV station's weatherman visited the school, she and Fuller were given a memorable helicopter ride to lunch. Students on the playground used to chant "Mr. Fu-u-u-u-ler" until he pushed them on the merry-go-round. Gifts presented to the retiree were a Dr. Seuss book signed by staffers, golf balls, chocolate to replace some of his which was "shared," a first aid kit, purple-and-white tie and "mustache" socks.

--Tyler, Carter and Connor Birkel were Birkel's speakers. The trio reflected on their mother being home early at day's end and up in the morning to get them to the school bus on time. She was home for the holidays and the family took extended summer vacations, visiting major historical sites. They sacrificed during the school term, when their mom was busy, so look forward now to her additional availability. She was always "quizzing" them--even on those vacations, besides for math and science tests.

For more please read the June 12 print version of the Herald.

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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