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McCardle's long provided students with extra help

Cheryl McCardle has gone wherever she was needed to help elementary students succeed in the Ellsworth School District.

And although her students now come to her, McCardle's still giving them extra help. Like the science lesson she planned for them last week, making bubble wands.

"I teach science and Dennis Olson (another fourth grade teacher in an adjacent classroom at Hillcrest Elementary School) teaches about Wisconsin," she said, referring to a subject exchange arranged for all their nine- and 10-year-old charges.

It's only been in the most recent of her 31 years in education that the Superior native has been stationed in a regular room here. She's taught a single grade since former Hillcrest Fourth Grade Teacher Bill Wall retired seven years ago; at the end of this term, it will be her turn to retire.

"I wanted a change," she said Wednesday of switching from traveling educator to anchored one.

McCardle became an LD (Learning Disabled) teacher when she arrived at Ellsworth. She said she'd gotten certified in LD and received a master's degree in remedial reading from UW-River Falls. Her local job not only meant journeying among all the buildings (even the former Maiden Rock school was still operating at that time), but working in non-conventional places.

"Many of them were storage closets," she said of the rooms where she met with her students.

Fortunately, they were in small groups--perhaps only one or two at some schools--so there was the advantage of one-on-one instruction. But she reminded their sessions weren't held every day as she made her way around the district.

"Most of the students were hard workers...they really tried to learn," she said.

She mainly provided special assistance in reading and math, she said, consulting often with the first-through-sixth grade students' classroom teachers about their needs. Eventually, the program was revamped and she ended up at Hillcrest, which she considered home base by the time the fourth grade teaching position was available.

The teacher knew education would be her vocation as soon as she was a student herself in a fourth grade class taught by her aunt back home, she said. One of four children, she had a brother who died and has another brother now living in Florida, plus a sister in River Falls. Her mother, Esther Kuep, presently lives in Beldenville.

After high school graduation, she attended UW-River Falls, where she met her husband, Pat, an Elmwood native (the couple has a son, Cole, who's now a junior in industrial design at UW-Stout). Her spouse is about to retire too, as principal at Greenwood Elementary School in River Falls.

She student taught fourth grade at Frederic, but her first regular teaching stints were in North Fond du Lac, after they moved to Oshkosh early on for one of his jobs. She guided fourth graders for one year and fifth graders for two years in a school system similar to Ellsworth's, in that it had outlying buildings. Class sizes were approximately 25 students, comparable to the 22 students in her room this year.

After three years, the McCardles returned to this area and she went back to UWRF before accepting the Ellsworth LD position. She has fond memories of late administrators Mike Perkins and Goldie Campbell. Campbell hired her and she remembers him borrowing her green markers when he wanted to dye his hair for St. Patrick's Day.

She's enjoyed her entire career, she said. Comparing her experience with fourth graders when she originally taught and later, she finds them more advanced, tackling multiplication and division they once wouldn't have been expected to do.

"They're always expanding their knowledge," she said.

They frequently visit the school's library to use computers and look forward to special projects including rocket launches organized by veteran local teacher Mr. Fahrendorff.

In retirement, McCardle plans to be with family, travel, pursue stamping (a favorite hobby) and spend time at the couple's cabin in Shell Lake. She said she's eager to join in water sports on the lake there.