Six long-time teachers at Great Bend USD 428 are answering the call of retirement at the end of this school year. Additionally, eight classified personnel are retiring or have already retired during the year.
They will be honored with a dinner on May 9 at the Great Bend Middle School commons area. At that time, five educators will also be recognized for 25 years of service to education.
Retiring teachers include Rachel McCaulley, Riley School music teacher; Nancy Baxter, Great Bend High School vocal music assistant; Leslie Perkins, Lincoln School reading interventionist; Katie Homolka, GBHS physical education and health teacher; Nancy Schuetz, Eisenhower, Lincoln and Jefferson schools English Language teacher; and Barbara Watson, GBHS English, speech and debate teacher.
Certified retirees include Karl Sprague, food service director; Teresa Winter, Eisenhower School custodian; Vicki Haselhorst, superintendent’s assistant; Denise Dolechek, Otis-Bison paraprofessional; Mike Staab, IT technician; Trish Schartz, Helping Hands paraprofessional; Kenny Elsen, bus driver and grounds maintenance; and Sharon Jenkins, transportation and grounds director.
Twenty-five-year veteran educators include Sherri Brantley, Great Bend Middle School math coach; Emily Mulch, GBHS media specialist; Christie Gerdes, special services director; Marlene Regehr, Park School music teacher; and Rebecca Demel, Jefferson School third-grade teacher.
About the teachers
Retiring teachers were given questionnaires about their careers. The following information was taken from their responses.
Nancy Baxter was born and raised in Great Bend and was a 1974 graduate of GBHS. After high school she attended Barton Community College and the University of Kansas where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance. Baxter later secured her K-12 vocal music education certification from Wichita State University. She has been the accompanist and vocal music assistant at GBHS for the past 24 years.
“I chose to be in education because I believe, first of all, that the gifts God gives us are meant to be shared,” she said. “I wanted to influence and inspire young people to love music and foster their own gifts.
“It has been an incredible journey to work with Susan Stambaugh and the many students who have passed through our doors,” Baxter said. “The fundraising, the contests and concerts, the Variety Shows ...
“My heart is full and grateful for each moment,” she said. “Thank you to every person who touched my life through my journey.”
Homolka was born and grew up in Pueblo, Colo., and graduated from Fort Hays State University with a B.S. in physical/health and science and later returned to school to secure a master’s degree in physical education. She has always taught in the Great Bend school district and notes that education has changed a lot through the years.
“There are so many different programs to help students succeed,” Homolka said. “I’m not sure some are necessary, but time will tell if they improve the learning process or not.
“(Education) may be a difficult path in the future since many areas may be cut for budget purposes,” she said.
Homolka said retirement will bring several projects including working on her flower farm that extends to helping with school fundraisers and other workshops.
“Of course, vacations will be a frequent,” she said, adding, “getting my Realtor’s license will be another item I want to accomplish.”
Rachel McCaulley grew up in McPherson and received her teaching degree from McPherson College.
“My dream was to be an elementary teacher who made a difference in children’s lives,” she said. “Education was and is very important in my family. Both of my parents were educators with multiple degrees.
“I began my teaching career in Pearland, Texas, while my husband, Russ, attended the University of Houston,” McCaulley said. “We moved to Great Bend in the summer of 1983. I taught kindergarten at Lincoln, Riley, Washington and Eisenhower. I also was a teacher/tutor at Riley before becoming Riley’s music teacher.
“I want to thank USD 428 for the opportunity to live my dream,” she said.
Her retirement plan is to spend time with family, travel and continue to support children in the community.
Schuetz was born in Kansas City, moved to Great Bend and attended school here. She graduated from the University of Kansas with an education degree and later earned a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and
Instruction from Wichita State University.
“I chose to become a teacher because I enjoy working with students and watching them accomplish their goals,” Schuetz said. “It’s rewarding to see them grow and succeed knowing that you had played a part in their success.”
Her teaching career began in the Shawnee Mission School District in Kansas City for eight years where she taught first and second grade. She and her husband, Perry, moved to Fort Lee, Va., for two years where he served in the Army and she was a substitute teacher. They returned to Great Bend and she continued to substitute teach and work with students who were homebound.
“In 1994 I started an English as a Second Language Program at Great Bend High School for students with limited English,” Schuetz said, noting she also started a Mexican Folk Dance Club that still performs for the community. After several years, she also started ESL programs at Eisenhower, Jefferson and Lincoln schools.
“An anecdote I remember happened early in my teaching career after a storm in the springtime,” she said. “A first-grade boy had rescued some baby robins that had fallen out of a nest, put them in a box and brought them for show and tell.
“After telling about them he opened the box and they decided to try their wings and fly around the room, which really enlivened his presentation!
“When I retire I plan to travel and enjoy my grandchildren,” she said.
“I have really enjoyed being a part of USD 428 and will miss working with everyone,” she said.
Perkins life started in Ellsworth and graduated from high school there. She is a graduate of Barton Community College, Sterling College and Friends University.
“In high school, all seniors had an opportunity to job shadow and I chose to work at a preschool,” she said. “I found that I loved working with young students helping them learn and watching them play and interacting with each other.”
Perkins’ teaching license allows her to teach K-9 and she has taught at several different levels, including Barton Community College tech classes. She has also worked as a network administrator and coordinator of a federal grant program working with K-12 school districts. She has taught at Lincoln School for the past 21 years, most recently as a reading and math interventionist.
“I have plans to spend more time with my two sons and their families,” she said, adding “it’s the grandchildren I want to spend more time with.
“I will have time to volunteer my services back to the community and also to the schools as a reader/listener to students,” Perkins said. “I also believe we are lifelong learners, so I will continue to learn something in my retirement.”
Although she has seen lots of changes in education, there has been one constant.
“The constants are teachers who give ALL of themselves each and everyday teaching their students,” Perkins said.
“They pour their heart and soul into teaching to make a positive difference to students.”
While there was no questionnaire from Barbara Watson, her accomplishments have been noted in recent days. The GBHS speech and debate coach was inducted into the West Kansas Chapter of the National Speech and Debate Association Hall of Fame in April. This is the highest recognition a speech and debate adviser can achieve in the district honor society.
“Mrs. Watson is a well deserving candidate for the award,” said Khris Thexton, superintendent. “Her dedication to speech and debate and the students of GBHS is remarkable and I am extremely happy for her to receive this honor.
“Mrs. Watson is another fine example of the great teachers we have at USD 428,” Thexton said.