Blue and gold balloons that say Happy Retirement

Spring Lake Park Schools honored and recognized 25 staff members who retired during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. As a learning community, we gather to recognize their tremendous contributions to our schools and celebrate their next steps with them.

Retirement reception photos

Here, they share any words they wanted to convey to our community about their journey and plans for the future.

Ann Baldwin

Retiree Ann Baldwin smiling with glasses

Speech-Language Pathologist
Centerview Elementary
1988-2021

I came here after spending my first year of teaching in the Northfield and Randolph school districts. For my first few years in the district, I was at both Woodcrest and Park Terrace and also saw students from Prince of Peace and Grace Lutheran schools.  I worked at Westwood Middle School for one year. After 20 years at Woodcrest, I moved to Northpoint when it opened. During ten years at Northpoint, I spent time at Primrose School. I then moved to Centerview when it opened. I am grateful that I was able to spend my entire career working directly with students.

Besides being a speech-language pathologist in SLP Schools for the last 33 years, I have also been the Spring Lake Park Teachers’ Union secretary for 31 years. Two thoughts were never far from my mind during all these years. One, teachers put their heart and soul into helping kids. And two, I am grateful to the teachers who advocate for our profession. I am honored to have served alongside so many of you [teachers]. 

During retirement, I plan to volunteer more, travel and be there more for my family.

Keith Barnes

337595

Math Teacher
Spring Lake Park High School
2005-2020

I was hired to teach math at Safe Harbor (the sober school within Learning Alternatives). When that program was eliminated, I taught in the Learning Alternatives until it, too, was outsourced. It was then that I moved to the high school and taught until my retirement in 2020.

I would like to say that it was a privilege to be a part of the Math Department at SLPHS. I will miss the teamwork, camaraderie, and fun.

A career highlight was when I was nominated by a student to the 2002-03 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Program. 

My retirement brings a lot of golf, travel, driving for food delivery and spending time with the grandkids and their activities.

Phillip Blake

Retiree Phil Blake smiling with a dog

Custodian
Spring Lake Park High School
1989-2020

I have worked nights at the high school my entire career with SLPHS apart from two summers. I was also available to help at the other schools and at the district office when need arose.

A couple of proud moments for me during my time with SLP was being the founder of the custodial basketball team (1991-2005) and performing in the Staff Follies (1995-1999).

My retirement brings time to hang out with family, friends and the dogs as well as enjoy musical endeavors.

Best wishes to everyone in the district and community. Extra shout out to my cohorts on the high school night crew. I’m still there in spirit.

Scott Ecker

Retiree Scott Ecker smiling in a blue shirt

Teacher and Coach
Westwood Intermediate and Middle School
1987-2021

During my time at SLP, I taught 4th and 5th grade at Kenneth Hall and at Westwood. I served as a union building representative for 20-something years and was a junior varsity girls golf coach for 27 years and a 9th grade boys basketball coach for eight years.

What makes me proud about my time in SLP is the amazing staff that work here. From paras, cooks and custodians to office staff, admin and teachers, their hard work and dedication to kids is amazing! I have been fortunate to work with some amazing people who truly care about kids and their education. I will always remember the many small moments with colleagues and kids I have taught and coached in my 34 years here at SLP.

My plans for retirement are to relax, golf, fish and enjoy a little cabin life.

Bernell Huver

292935

Child Care Assistant Teacher
Woodcrest Spanish Immersion Elementary
1989-2020

While at SLP Schools, I worked at Kenneth Hall, Park Terrace, Westwood, Woodcrest Spanish Immersion, Golden Lake and Spring Lake Park High School.

I'm proud to be a Panther. My children all went to SLP and I'm proud of all four of them - they had a great education. I will miss all my co-workers and I'll especially miss the kids. The years went fast and they were good years that I'll always remember! 

A career highlight was working with the children and having parents come up to me saying "thank you." It also makes me proud to read in the paper that many of our Learning Ventures children are on the A honor roll. 

In retirement, I am gardening, spending time with my family and relaxing at home and at the cabin. 

Lollie Jensen

293357

Teacher 
Park Terrace Elementary
1987-2020

Since I started with the Spring Lake Park School District, I have always taught at Park Terrace. Over the years, I have taught 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade. 

I loved working in the district that I graduated from. My years in SLP have been full of working with awesome educators, families and students. 

 

Bonnie Johannessen

Retiree Bonnie Johannessen smiling

Teacher & Academic Specialist
Westwood Schools
1988-2021

In my 37 years of teaching, I’ve taught every grade level from kindergarten through 6th grade, except 3rd grade. I started in the district as a classroom teacher at Park Terrace. I moved to Westwood Intermediate to teach in the classroom and most recently worked as an Academic Specialist. Prior to Spring Lake Park Schools, I taught Kindergarten for three years in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin.

Even though I’ve never resided in the district, I am proud to say that we chose to open enroll our daughter in Spring Lake Park Schools and she is a 2017 Panther graduate. There are also so many amazing educators that I have been fortunate to work with through the years. I am thankful for many strong leaders, especially Margo Otterness, Calista Alden, and Susan Leet. SLP staff has most recently gone above and beyond in demonstrating their strong collaboration and readiness to support each other through an extremely challenging time.

A career highlight for me has been completing the coursework for my K-12 reading license and applying that information to help students “learn to read” so they can “read to learn.”

During retirement, I plan to travel to Greece and Hawaii with my husband, spend time with my daughter in San Francisco and family/parents in the Brainerd area, read and participate in book club with teacher friends, play hockey with my “Fighting Sue” teammates and learn to play Pickleball.

Wayne Johnson

293639

Custodian
Park Terrace Elementary
1983-2021

 

 

 

 

Linda Kennedy

Linda Kennedy

Media Paraprofessional
Westwood Schools
1999-2020

I’m happy to say I have spent most of my 20 years in the media center. I have enjoyed helping students find books that would spark a love of reading.

I have always been proud to work for SLP. This spring has cemented the admiration I have for the staff at Spring Lake Park. A worldwide pandemic forced us to find a new way to connect with students in the space of days.  We did it!

I have, and will, miss all the smiles and greetings. The way our staff cares for each other. Students who care enough to start go fund me pages to help classmates.

Tami Lamberty

Retiree Tami Lamberty smiling

Continuous Improvement Coach
Westwood Schools
1988-2020

During my time with the SLP School District, I have been a 6th grade teacher at Westwood Elementary, a 6th grade teacher at Westwood Middle School with a year of 7th grade language arts as well. I ended my time as a Continuous Improvement Coach at the Westwood complex.

A memory I’d like to share is from 1988. With mere days before the beginning of the school year, Jerry Maeckelbergh and Chris Huber offered a young newlywed from Wisconsin…gasp!... a grade 6 teaching position. I couldn’t have landed in a better spot than Westwood Elementary, teaching with George Jones, Kim Deason and Anita Gustafson. It never occurred to me then that I would serve in the Spring Lake Park Schools District for the next thirty years. And believe it or not, those years went by quickly!

Thirty plus years in one district gave me ample time to work alongside so many different people from all over the district. I had the privilege of teaching so many young adolescents and the honor of meeting so many families. As I look back on my time in Spring Lake Park Schools, I would like my colleagues, from the start to the end of my career, to know how much I treasure the memories of working together. Any kindness you shared with me, any laugh or tear, any conversation we had has been tucked away to be remembered in my heart. My life has been blessed by you and I am better for have known you, truly. Thank you to all who have gladdened my heart along the way!

Paula Lanoue

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Paraprofessional
Westwood Schools
1999-2020

During my time at SLP, I have been an instructional paraprofessional in Title 1, Basic Skills, and the Academic Specialist group. I also worked as an office paraprofessional. I had the opportunity to head up a volunteer parent program and was the student council advisor for 13 years. 

My first Panther Proud moments were the seven years before I became a staff member. My boys were students here and I became involved as a volunteer at Westwood and subsequently district-wide. The good that I saw in the education my children were receiving inspired me to be an advocate in the community for what our schools were doing and what we needed to do as a community to support education. That led to the next phase which was to become a member of the staff

As a staff member, I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the most amazing staff, administrators, families, and students. Each and every one of these people have made me appreciate being a part of Spring Lake Park Schools, and the excellence that can be achieved when we all work together. There is so much talent and passion here.  

While at SLP, there have been so many proud moments, but I will say that the years of working with kids who struggled and helping them feel like they were successful will always be my greatest sense of accomplishment. I will also say that advising student council came with so many rewards in terms of giving young students the opportunity to develop leadership skills and opportunities for giving back to the community through service.

I have many fond memories and experiences. So many who have mentored me and allowed me to grow. So many laughs and a few tears. I am eternally grateful for having been a part of this community!

In retirement, my husband and I have plans to "GO" while we are able. That will mean time to travel when we want. It will mean seeing the kids more often - maybe, someday, some grandkids too! Time to garden, hike, bike, camp, read...you know. Of course, I might have to do a few projects around the house to keep things in balance.

Kolette Leonhardt

293314

Special Education Paraprofessional
Westwood Schools
1999-2020

During my time with SLP, I started working with Stacy Gerding at Kenneth Hall and then moved to Westwood Intermediate and Middle School with Stacy Gerding and Mary Bacha.

My plans for retirement include lots of traveling. 

 

 

Elizabeth Linares

Retiree Elizabeth Linares smiling in an orange shirt

Principal
Woodcrest Spanish Immersion Elementary
2014-2020

I was honored to hold one singular position while in SLP Schools: Principal of Woodcrest Spanish Immersion, 2014-2020. During my 36-year career as an educator, I worked in five Minnesota school districts. My final stop in SLP was distinctly the highlight, marked by the most rewarding work of my career.

I am proud to have been a member of the Leadership Team and treasure the friendships that came out of my time as a Panther. I feel fortunate to have been surrounded by brave, and creative colleagues at Woodcrest and across the district. I am especially grateful to my fellow principals, the WC leadership team, and my assistant, the one and only Yesica for the support, and the laughs that were abundant during the best and the most challenging of times. 

Spring 2020 will remain in my memory as a time when I was both stunned and inspired nearly every day by how we rallied; as teams, as schools, as a district, and as individuals to face off with a pandemic. Since then, so much learning and refining and adapting has taken place, but in the initial weeks and then months, we were all called into frightening and unfamiliar territory, and we leaned on each other to stay the course. I'm proud to have been a part of that, AND glad it is now history.

In retirement, I’m enjoying a lot of the simple pleasures: sleeping, reading, gardening, pickleball, tennis, Netflix, etc. I am currently at the very beginning of a project that will bring me together with some of my friends who are also retirees and have some creative energy that's looking for a landing place.  I hesitate to say more while the plan is still in embryotic stage, but the project will hopefully feed my appetite for working in, and being a member of a multigenerational, bilingual community.

Kim Ness

Retiree Kim Ness smiling in a black shirt

Early Childhood Family Education Room Assistant
District-Wide
1991-2020

I have been in the Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) department since joining Spring Lake Park Schools and have always enjoyed that department. I will miss my ECFE family. We always had each other's backs. 

In my role, I was always proud to help a shy child and becoming their go-to. 

I didn't plan to retire but an illness made it a reality. I'm hoping to get stronger and spend time with my children and grandchildren!

Maria Norman

Maria Norman

Administrative Assistant
Spring Lake Park High School
2001-2019

I was an administrative assistant the entire time I was at SLP, working in Learning Ventures from 2001-2007 and at Spring Lake Park High School from 2007-2019.

I am so proud to have been a part of so many lives. I grew to know so many wonderful staff, shared in their lives, births, adoptions, weddings and family losses. I will miss my daily interactions with so many staff who just stopped in to listen. It has been an amazing ride. I want to thank everyone for making my work life complete. 

After I retired, my husband and I moved to Roseau, MN. We moved to be close to our daughter and son-in-law who are part owners of Sunset Lodge in LOTW and my plan was to help at the Lodge when needed. My retirement didn't last long. I am now working for Marvin Windows as a Care Agent to Dealers in the South Region of the U.S. It has been exciting to learn something new, but I sure miss my people at SLP.

Colleen Saffert

Retiree Colleen Saffert smiling in a stripped shirt

Special Education Paraprofessional
Westwood Schools
2004-2020

 

 

 

 

Barbara Saunders

292927

Early Childhood Family Education Teacher
District Services Center
1993-2020

For 26 years, I was a parent educator for the Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program. While in the same position, I have literally worked all over the SLP school district as ECFE moved a lot. Other parts of my position included coordinating the Early Childhood Screening program and providing outreach to promote the importance of ECFE locally and statewide. 

I will miss meeting the wonderful families that come to ECFE and all of my dedicated colleagues in Early Childhood. The ECFE team has been together for many years, and you can’t find a better group of friends to work with. We firmly believe that parents are their child’s first and most important teachers and ECFE works to support parents and help start the littlest of learners on their road to future school success

A career highlight was that I was named the SLP Teacher of the Year, Elementary Level in May 2011. 

My retirement plans include spending more time with my family, especially my four growing granddaughters. My husband and I hope to use our travel trailer and explore Minnesota and hopefully other areas of the U.S.

Becky Schleisman

Retiree Becky Schleisman smiling

ASD Paraprofessional
Spring Lake Park High School
1991-2020

During my time with Spring Lake Park Schools, I worked at Woodcrest Elementary and Spring Lake Park High School. At Woodcrest, I assisted students in classrooms, in the lunchroom, at recess, in the reading program and as a crossing guard. I am proud to say no students were hurt on my corner! At the high school, I worked with ASD students in the classroom. At both schools, I know I learned a lot from our amazing teachers.

In my 29 years at SLP, I’ve seen so many positive moves forward in the direction of available possibilities for our students. SLP has wonderful staff made up of many talents that make our district one of the finest! I’m proud to say I have four grandchildren in the district. They’re the best.

A career highlight for me is after days, and sometimes weeks when a student would smile with excitement and say, “I get it, Ms. Becky!”

My retirement brings building a new home, spending more time at our lake home in Nisswa and relaxing with friends and family.

Jeff Schlieff

Retiree Jeff Schlieff smiling in a grey shirt

Physical Education Teacher and Coach
Spring Lake Park High School
1993-2021

Jeff taught Physical Education and Weight Training Classes for 29 years during his time with Spring Lake Park Schools. He was the head football coach for 25 years and an assistant wrestling coach for 15 years. He has also been a boys C squad tennis coach and a JV boys golf coach.

 

 

Loreen Schulstad

Retiree Loreen Schulstad smiling

Child Care Assistant Teacher
Learning Ventures - district-wide
2000-2020

During my time with SLP Schools, I was a Learning Ventures Child Care Assistant Teacher in five of the district buildings. 

What makes me proud to be a Panther is just to say I made a difference. I will miss the laughs I had with my co-workers. I would like to thank Neil Brown for caring so much about me and the rest of my co-workers. He is wonderful.

A career highlight for me was when one of my co-workers told me I had a gift for working with children.

My retirement brings traveling and relaxation. I will also start subbing again soon. I miss everyone!

Deborah Somody

Retiree Deborah Somody smiling with glasses

Special Education Paraprofessional
Park Terrace Elementary
2014-2021

During my seven years with the district, I have been a Westwood General Para, a Park Terrace Emotionally-Behaviorally Disabled (EBD) Para, a Developmental Cognitive Disability (DCD) Para, a Visual Impaired Para and an Extended Flexible Learning Para. I was also a reading teacher at the Rodger Sherman School in Meredith, CT.

It has been my honor to support the students and staff at Park Terrace. The community I have served is an example to others of love, kindness and support. A special shout out to Sara Sarrazin, Melissa Haggar-Olson, Kimber McKenzie and Elizabeth Ketz in whose classrooms I witnessed outstanding teaching and care for their students that went above and beyond.

A career highlight for me was supporting and encouraging our online students every day during the stay-at-home orders this past school year. I even got to dance on a student’s lawn to motivate her and celebrate her hard work.

My plans for retirement are traveling to visit our four children in four different states and to see our 11 grandchildren. I will also be subbing at Park Terrace, camping and enjoying life with my wonderful husband, Randy, whom I have shared life with for 48 years.

Wendy Trowbridge

Retiree Wendy Trowbridge smiling in a blue patterned shirt

Teacher
Park Terrace Elementary
1989-2021

I began my career teaching at Westwood Elementary. From there, I moved to Woodcrest Elementary and Park Terrace Elementary. I have taught 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades as well as being an Academic Specialist. I have been blessed to have worked with amazing colleagues in SLP. Each team I have been a part of was made up of amazing groups of individuals.

A career highlight for me was surviving the 2020-2021 school year! A huge shout out to Melissa Haggar-Olson, Kelsey Bethke and Taiwo Sodunke for helping me navigate through three teaching models.

In retirement, I plan on doing some traveling including visiting national parks. Future plans involve finding a warm place to go during January and February!

Jean Waldvogel

Retiree Jean Waldvogel smiling

Media Paraprofessional
Park Terrace Elementary
1999-2020

Prior to my position at Park Terrace Elementary, I was a para sub working in all of the elementary buildings. I also covered lunch, recess, professional learning community meetings and was a hall greeter. I was an active member of the Park Terrace PTA and volunteered at the high school as well.

I will miss the children and staff at Park Terrace. I have made many lifelong friends. I enjoyed working in the library and introducing books to the students as well as helping them find books and encouraging them to read.

I was fortunate to watch our three children go through the district, beginning in Park Terrace and also watching three of our grandchildren.

My retirement brings spending more time with family and friends, gardening and spending more time at our country home in Osakis, MN.

Peter Yelle

Retiree Pete Yelle smiling

Community Education Coordinator
District Services Center 
2000-2021

My entire 21-year career at SLP Schools has been with the Community Education Department starting as a Youth Services Development Manager and more recently as a Community Education Coordinator. 

I have been truly blessed to work in this district. There are so many dedicated and caring people who work at SLP. I have enjoyed working with many great teachers, coaches and staff. I can’t say enough about the students that I have been honored to work with through the years, either in the Leo Service Club or through other programs. The highlight of my career has been connecting with many awesome SLP youth while doing school and community projects together. My reward has been seeing the creative students, with diverse ideas, who are dedicated and committed to their school and community.

I would like to thank my co-workers in the Community Education Department for many years of support, collaboration and fun. It has been a great ride!

In retirement I will continue to serve the community with the SLP Lions, spend time with my family and grandsons and pursue new passions with my newfound free time.

Tom Young

293610

Mathematics Educator
Spring Lake Park High School
1980-2020

During my time with SLP Schools, I taught different levels of math at the high school, coached, directed, advised and announced for various athletic and activity groups and sat on multiple boards.

Spring Lake Park Schools rank second to none. We have great students, a great community, and great staff all working toward a common goal. While there have been bumps along the road, some minor, some significant, all in all, it’s been a pretty good ride. The ride started when Stan Prokopowicz took a chance on me, hiring me on the spot during a July 1980 interview. I want to thank all the students that struggled, the students that excelled, and those somewhere in between; they made it worth coming every day.  My colleagues made it worth coming every day, as well. I’ve made many life-long friends here. There are too many colleagues to thank so I’ve made two videos that encapsulate my feelings. They can be found at https://youtu.be/aF2SXLbYNpg and https://youtu.be/2e26pBUcz9s.

It’s hard to separate personal highlights from educational ones because they intertwine in a school.  Meeting, and marrying, Beth McGregor is the personal highlight. She made life, and school, more fun.  I miss her so.

Allow me one of many educational highlights: In the early 1990s, OBE (outcomes-based education) was the rage. Students were required to pass certain standards at an 80% achievement level. One particular student struggled with that construct and as a ninth-grader couldn’t master algebraic factoring. He kept working off and on through 10th, 11th, and into 12th grade to master that idea and finally he did. That was a day filled with tears of happiness, relief, and pride. I will remember him for a long time.

I have several ideas for retirement including: continuing as Executive Director of the Math League, dabbling with mathematics and trying to discover unknown ideas, writing some mathematical journal articles that I have shelved for many years, traveling once the pandemic eases, taking classes at the University of Minnesota, working with my church’s disaster relief outreach, and above all, watching and being involved with my two daughters as their families grow.