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Keenan the latest in her family to become a teacher

Chris Keenan's mother was a Spanish teacher and her grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse.

So take a guess what line of work she went into.

Keenan was hired by the Ellsworth School District in August 1975. She has taught both English and history during that time in the junior high/middle school and the high school.

Once this school year ends, Keenan's time is up, as she will retire.

It's safe to say that, up to this point, her life has been devoted to education.

"From when I started kindergarten until I retire, I couldn't think of more than a six-month period when I wasn't studying or teaching," she said.

The Waukesha native got a jump start on teaching, as during her high school years, her grammar teacher called on her to sometimes teach the class to her fellow students who had a hard time learning the subject.

"I was good at explaining things and it was kind of fun," she remembered.

Keenan explained the history portion came into the equation when she got to college at UW-La Crosse. Her ability to write enabled her to do well in those classes, she enjoyed them and, thanks to some prodding from professors, she decided why not?

Throughout her time in Ellsworth, Keenan has taught seventh grade civics, English, eighth grade English, world history, US history, remedial English and remedial history (those last two classes are now part of Learning Disability classes), along with ninth grade geography and English.

"When I felt I was getting good at something," she said, "they switched me to something else."

Despite that, she added, she loved the idea of idea of tackling a new subject.

However, her favorite class, without question, throughout that period has been eighth grade creative writing, in which students are asked to write poems and short stories.

"It's been more fun than anything I've ever taught," she said. "Kids clearly have an ability to write poems because they write about everything that happened in their childhood."

She explained she felt the time was right for her to retire and being one of 13 teachers in the school district to retire pleases her.

"I'm glad that there is that many," she said. "It's nice to be in a big group of retirees."

In retirement, Keenan plans on continuing to work part-time at Macy's in St. Paul and possibly do more teaching, whether subbing back at Ellsworth or teaching adult education in creative writing and/or English as a second language. (Keenan is widowed, as husband Charlie, a commercial artist, died six years ago.)

"Summers are the practice for retirement," she said. "Teachers won't have the problem making the transition, unlike other professions."

Keenan's advice for parents is to make sure their kids keep up with the daily assignments.

"Doing the daily assignments is far better than trying to catch up," she said. "Learning is built on knowledge from a day-to-day basis."

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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