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Five staff members retire from TCU
Five staff members said good-bye to the Tri-City United District when they retired at the end of the school year. Social Worker Karen Donahue, Art Teacher Maureen Gunderson, Nurse Janet Strey, Adaptive Physical Education Instructor Jodi Quiram and Elementary Teacher Colleen Wondra packed up their classrooms and offices for the last time this week after a combined total of 88 years of service to the Le Center, Montgomery-Lonsdale and TCU districts.
Karen Donahue spent 11 years working as a school social worker or as a counselor for Montgomery-Lonsdale Schools and TCU. Most recently she worked in the buildings with grades K-4, but in the early years, she also worked with 5th and 6th grades. One area of her career that she is proud of is to have worked with all students through her implementation of the Bully Prevention Program.
"Karen has been instrumental in building a strong anti-bullying program," stated TCU Superintendent Matt Helgerson. "She works very hard to help kids and has positively touched so many lives."
Donahue connected with students in many settings in addressing social and emotional learning, from individual meetings to small groups, all the way up to the classroom setting.
"I have always been grateful for my role in the district," she said. "I will mostly miss all of the wonderful children that I have had the opportunity to work with in the past 11 years. Not only have I learned much from them, but my heart has been touched by their generous spirits."
As she enters retirement, Donahue said she is looking forward to spending more time with her six grandchildren, and also hopes to travel.
Maureen Gunderson has served the Le Center and TCU district for 13 years, and has been a strong advocate for art education. In addition to teaching art education, she was also a parent facilitator for Montgomery-Lonsdale ECFE from its start in 1987 until 1999.
"Maureen has been a dedicated art educator, has received art educator of the year in Minnesota and championed the Q Comp program at Le Center and TCU," Helgerson said.
Over the years, Gunderson mostly taught grades K-8. This year she was able to offer an advanced pottery class at the new high school.
"The most rewarding part about teaching art is when a student completes a project and they are so proud of what they have done. It's also great to see kids who struggle in other areas shine in art," she said. "I will miss all the smiling faces and friends I have made over the years."
Gunderson plans to spend more time on her own art, as well as travel to see her grown children living in South Dakota.
Janet Strey served the Montgomery-Lonsdale and TCU districts as the licensed school nursefor the past nine and one-half years. Helgerson described her as dedicated, saying she approached each sick child or medical situation with care and compassion.
"I will miss working with the wonderful professional TCU staff and terrific children," she said.
In her retirement, Strey plans to move closer to one of her children and grandchildren. She and her husband, Howie, also hope to travel to see their other children out east.
Jodi Quiram has been the K-8 adaptive physical education instructor at Le Center and TCU for 30 years.
"The most rewarding part of teaching is when you see the excitement in the students, when they get the concept you have been attempting to teach," she said.
Helgerson said Quiram's calm demeanor, smile and compassion for educating all students is "tremendous".
"She has diligently organized the Le Center Track and Field Day for a number of years and has also been a coach in the districts," he added.
Quiram commented on how she will miss the staff and friends she has made throughout the years, and that she will especially miss the enthusiasm of the students.
With more time on her hands, she said she has no special plans but is looking forward to taking each day to do as she likes.
Colleen Wondra taught elementary education at Montgomery-Lonsdale and TCU for a total of 25 years after teaching in the Cleveland district for 12 years. During her career she taught kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and combined 2nd/3rd grade classes. For the past six years, however, Wondra has been the elementary Title 1 teacher.
"Colleen is a strong advocate for early intervention services/Title programming, and she has helped many children become better readers and stronger in mathematics," Helgerson said. "She has a true passion for helping kids."
After so many years working with young students, Wondra said there are a lot of things she's going to miss.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed being a teacher and it has been such a blessing to spend every day surrounded by wonderful children who truly want to learn," she said. "I have enjoyed every minute of my teaching career and will definitely miss the students and staff."
Looking ahead, she said she will have more time to spend with family and friends during her retirement, but also hopes to continue working with children in some way. She stated: "I feel very fortunate to have lived and taught in my hometown for all these years. I am happy to have grandchildren who are also a part of our great school district and I will continue to be involved through them for many years to come."