Today marks my sister Kathy’s final day as an educator.
She is retiring for health reasons following a 29-year teaching career. She began as an English teacher at Audubon Middle School, and spent the bulk of her career as a Library Media Specialist at Menomonee Falls High School.
Truthfully, Kathy probably should have retired years ago, following her breast cancer’s brain metastasization in 2016. But, the woman loves her job.
She loves her co-workers, many of whom are like family to her. She loves her Geek Squad, a gifted group of students who work with her to address the school’s IT and audio visual challenges. She loves her work, introducing students to authors they might never have met without her intervention, guiding them through research projects and providing a safe space for them to exercise their brains. She loves her school merch — we have all received Menomonee Falls sweatshirts for gifts at one time or another. She loves Karla, her indomitable educational assistant, her former principal (now Superintendent) Corey, her current principal Bob, the whole Menomonee Falls athletic and coaching staff, her friend and director of Quality and Analytics Suzy, the very kind custodial staff, and everyone else I’m forgetting to mention.
The Menomonee Falls High School LMC has been a jigsaw-puzzle-playing, current-topic-debating, book-club-hosting, mentor-developing, hotbed of creativity under her tutelage.
She hosted a Film Festival each spring and solicited entries from students all around the district.
As I’ve written about before, Kathy has been a teacher of distinction. She earned a distinguished alumni award from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee School of Information Studies, the Herb Kohl Fellowship in 2007, the University of Wisconsin – Madison distinguished alumni award in 2010, and the 2007 Wisconsin State Special Services Teacher of the Year.
She accomplished all of this while battling significant health issues. For instance, in the fall of 2010, she walked like a pirate and wore a black eye patch for months, due to balance issues caused by hydrocephalus. She had four of her six brain surgeries while she was employed by the Menomonee Falls School District.
I told the story of how she gave us a scare following one of her surgeries when she texted an update that began with “disaster!” and we had to keep reading to learn that the disaster she referenced was a delayed pizza delivery for her Geek Squad.
Bruised and battered, that beautiful brain keeps rolling along. If it were up to Kathy, she’d probably continue to drag herself, drop foot and all, into school to continue her work there. But, her doctors have indicated that it’s time for her to find other, less strenuous, ways for her to use her talents.
In that regard, I’m excited to see where this next step takes her.
Because, my sister’s brain is an incredible thing and, together with her heart, they make quite a team.
Look out, world! It will be exciting to see what this next phase of Kathy’s life brings.