Retirement Day

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.

My sister Jenny was Kathy’s first student. Later, she set up a classroom in our basement and taught the neighborhood kids.
I took this picture of Kathy for one of her many teaching awards. She wins them. I document them.
Kathy and my mom with former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl. Kathy won the Herb Kohl Fellowship that year.
And here we all are toasting her again, this time at the award ceremony for the Wisconsin’s Teacher of the Year.
Kathy, then State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster and her Teacher of the Year Award,
This is Kathy and her Geek Squad members in 2014, the first year we all participated in the Menomonee Falls Relay for Life.
She’s a survivor and a thriver, man.
Kathy is also a huge sport fan. Here we are at a Badger game at Lambeau Field. The Badger band serenaded her, which was incredibly cool.
I just like this picture of my sister Jenny and Kathy, my niece Erin, my daughter Katherine and my sister in-law Robin. Go Pack Go!
Kathy’s husband Keith is a former teacher and retired school administrator himself and he and his son Traveain have been very supportive of Kathy’s career. The Finley family makes a formidable team.

10 thoughts on “Retirement Day

  1. Oh my! All the things Kathy accomplished in her young life! Congratulations on your retirement, Kathy. You are a brave and courageous young lady, and I am so proud I can call you friend. I am sure your students and co-workers will miss you.

  2. Wonderful tribute to WONDER woman Kathy who I have had the honor to know and admire for many years.
    Impressive career of a dedicated teacher.
    I am sure her school administrators will give her early retirement the honors and recognition it certainly deserves.
    To Kathy, my best, as always. Love

  3. A very happy and a very sad day!!!! I worked with Kathy at MFHS and her cheerfulness and kindness will be missed for sure. Kathy and I had a common “friend” in that John Van Drunen is my “cousin in-law” and we would often keep tabs on him through each other. I pray for her to maybe enjoy a much earned rest and then know she will be off to her next adventure!!! I retired in January so know how much she will miss her MFHS family!! Wish you all the best Kathy, know that your kindness was always so appreciated!!!

  4. Kathy, congrats on your retirement!! Love the Relay for Life pic! I organized the 1st Bark for Life in Texas — huge success with the pups helping with the fundraising!

  5. I stumbled across your site while looking for a picture of Vince Lombardi with the gifts he gave the players’ wives. One of the images that came up led me to your article ( I started reading it and thought “I think I know her”….

    I was sorry to hear about Kathy’s health issues but glad to hear she’s retiring and moving on to new things. It looks like it has been an incredible journey from the days at St. Therese. 🙂 I wish her well in the next chapter of her life.

    Mike L.
    One of the “neighborhood kids” and yes, I remember the classroom.

  6. Hi Mike! What a fun surprise to see your comment! Laura and I were just talking about the neighborhood and how you and I walked some of the younger kids, including Jenny, to St. Therese when we were big 6th graders! I hope you’re doing well. It really is great to hear from you!


  7. I just absolutely adore Kathy and feel so blessed to be able to call her my friend. I’m an author, and Kathy brought me in for Menomonee Falls High School’s Book Club. It was such a special and memorable experience for me and the beginning of a wonderful friendship. All the love, care, and dedication that Kathy has given to others should be showered on her for a spectacular retirement! I’m not at all surprised by the love people have for Kathy. She is a shining example of kindness. Be well, Kathy!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.