District 70 closed out the 2012-13 school year with the retirement of five veteran teachers with careers that span a total of 140 years.
Highland Middle School gifted math and health teacher Karen Branding spent her entire 33 years teaching Libertyville students.
“The refreshing thing about teaching is that the wonderful children I have taught over the years and still teach today all have the same unlimited potential, even though the worlds in which they have grown up are quite different,” Branding said when reflecting on her career.
With such a long career in the same field, the enthusiastic and dynamic Branding says she has seen many changes.
“Technology is an emphasis in education today when it wasn’t even on the radar when I started teaching,” she said. “We live in a global, more integrated world where information and communication are immediate and continually accessible. But despite the changes in our society, kids are still kids—they need structure, guidance, understanding, and love. Their lives are unwritten and I have been fortunate to connect with so many wonderful young people throughout my teaching career.”
Copeland Manor instructional resource teacher Donna Brannstrom has taught for 35 years, spending 31 years in District 70. She looks forward to retirement when she can travel anytime during the year and not just on school holidays.
Aside from the advancement of technology, Brannstrom says the trends and styles of teaching are continuously growing and changing.
Known for her comforting and reassuring teaching style, Brannstrom says she will miss students and staff.
“Watching a child develop and grow with their learning has always been very rewarding to me,” she said. “My favorite part was to watch that 'Ahh-haa' moment when children discover they understand the concept being taught and they feel the success of their learning.”
Copeland Manor Learning Center Director Jan Wagner has spent 25 years in District 70 with 21 of those years teaching. This fall she will relax a little when she walks her grandchildren to their first day of school.
At the beginning of her career, Wagner said she ate lunch in the classroom with her class, taught them music and art, and all with minimal special education support. She doesn’t remember air conditioning or having a school library.
Remembered for her quick smile and uplifting personality, Wagner will be remembered for all the times she read aloud to students and how well she worked with parents.
“What a great collaboration my years in District 70 have been, with children looking for that just right book or piece of information, parents who have supported the library programs and gotten the overdue books back on the shelf, and staff and administration who never wavered in their support of reading and literacy,” she said.
“There is a saying—spend time with the people you want to be like, I have done that for these many years and I will miss that company,” Wagner said.
For the lively and talented Jill Leffelman, who has spent 27 years with District 70, teaching was never just a job.
“I have been incredibly lucky to be able to do a 'job' that I’ve known isn’t a 'job'—it’s just what I do,” she said. “For years, when I would meet new people and the subject of 'occupation' came up—I would be pegged as a teacher without any prompting from me—it’s just who I am, I guess.”
Retirement will find Leffelman, who embraced change and encouraged students to always ask questions, traveling with her husband and spending time with her four grandchildren.
“A constant through my years in District 70 has been a wonderful cooperation between the community and the schools, as well as phenomenal teachers and staff who always have worked to make learning engaging and challenging for our students,” she said.
Leffelman said she will miss the wonderful enthusiasm and spontaneity of her “young ones,” a term of endearment she used for her students.
As for how she’d like to be remembered, Leffelman said, “I would hope that, in some way, I have helped make this world a little better place for the children I was fortunate enough to meet, teach and love.”
Deb McMahon has been a mainstay in District 70’s Early Childhood Program for 25 years.
For the first time in her life, McMahon will be vacationing in September. Retirement also will include time with her grandson, gardening and gardening classes. But she knows she will miss her co-workers and the students.
“The only constant in education seems to be change,” she said. “Every year in Early Childhood is new and different and exciting. I have had the privilege of working with new students and families each year and have enjoyed watching our students grow and blossom through the years they spend with us in Early Childhood.”For McMahon, she will always remember the children and families that have crossed her path and “the joy in their laughter.”
—Submitted by Libertyville District 70.