May 30, 2019
Meet Some of our 2019 Retirees
About 60 of our teachers, specialists, administrators, paraeducators, secretaries, custodians and other hardworking employees are retiring this year. Here are words of wisdom and personal stories from a few of them:
Dwain Adams, Canyon View Elementary
Dwain Adams has been at Canyon View Elementary School for almost his entire 33-year career with Kennewick schools.
It's more than a workplace to him. It's a second home, a family.
In his time at Canyon View, Adams — the lead custodian — has gotten to know generations of students and parents.
He's built strong friendships among the staff. And he's taught many lessons.
"I may not actually be teaching in front of the classroom, but adults are always teaching children," he said. "I try to model good behavior."
Principal Mark Stephens said he's done exactly that. "Dwain is a wonderful guy" who goes the extra mile for Canyon View, he said.
Adams may be back at Canyon View down the road. He's working on becoming a paraeducator.
Cindy McKay, Southgate Elementary School
Cindy McKay and her kindergartners at Southgate Elementary School have a tradition each day. They sing a song that starts out with this line: "Kindergarten, a wonderful place to be..."
With McKay as the teacher, kindergarten really is wonderful.
She's been teaching that grade level at Southgate since 1996, and she fills her class with music, special activities and fun.
She's been savoring each tradition a little extra this year. It's bittersweet to be leaving because she loves the job, she said.
"I love kindergarten because it’s the very beginning. You get to help form (the students) and lead them and direct them. You’re the ground, the whole beginning," McKay said. "If they have a great kindergarten experience, then you hope that they’ll continue to love school."
Alan Miller, Cottonwood Elementary School:
"When you’re teaching, there’s no down time. You’re totally absorbed in what you’re doing. Time goes fast. I like seeing the kids grow, challenging them and seeing by the end of the year what they can do and the growth they’ve had over the year. It keeps you young to work with kids. It keeps your attitude in the right place," said Alan Miller, a third grade teacher.
Miller is retiring this year after 28 years with the Kennewick School District.
"It’s almost hard to believe I’ve been doing it this long," he said. "But, when I think about what it is I've been doing for those 28 years, it's a pretty good feeling."
Tomasa Bayona, Kamiakin High School
Tomasa Bayona could have retired a few years back, but she loves her work at Kamiakin High School.
As a Spanish teacher in the World Languages department, she helps students master everything from vocabulary to verb conjugation, and she also teaches them about the history and cultures of Spanish-speaking countries.
It opens the world to them, she said.
She enjoys it so much that it's bittersweet to finally be retiring this year.
"To still be in a place after retirement age means you love it," she said. "The students give me energy. They come with different ways to do things, different attitudes. I enjoy teaching high school. I love it."
Bonnie Wagar, Southgate Elementary School
Bonnie Wagar had a mantra she used to repeat to her students: practice makes perfect.
In more than 20 years as a paraeducator at Horse Heaven Hills Middle School, Cascade Elementary School and Southgate Elementary School, she said it a lot.
And she helped a lot of students.
"I just knew that working for the school district was the best job I could ever have. I loved it," said Wagar, a recent retiree. "Once, on the last day of school, a (student's) mom wrote a note to say how much her daughter would miss me. She wanted a picture with me. That meant a lot."
Diane Sundvik, speech language pathologist
"Everybody wants to be useful. That's all of us. You'd like to think that the work you do to help people communicate better is helpful. I think it is. I see a big difference in our students. I think it means a lot to their families, too," said Diane Sundvik, a speech language pathologist.
"Usually I only have two or three (students) in my room at a time. Sometimes you're working one-on-one. I think this has been a safe place for kids to express things, and it's also been a safe place for parents. Being able to work with those parents and families and make things better – that's pretty exciting. It's fulfilling."
Anna Haines, Kamiakin High School
"I like to see the kids get it. I like to see their artistic voice develop – when they take on and develop their own style and have confidence," said Anna Haines, a longtime art teacher at Kamiakin. "It’s a great feeling when the bell rings and the kids don’t want to leave because they're having too much fun. The art room is a very special place for a lot of students."
Marty Rose, fiscal officer
Marty Rose helps keep the Kennewick School District's finances healthy as a fiscal officer.
And in her off hours, she helps keep the entire community healthy, too. She's a longtime EMT and a senior EMT instructor at Columbia Basin College.
She loves both fields, and her career has blended the two things she dreamed of doing when she was growing up: working with numbers and serving in the medical field.
She'll continue her EMT instruction, but she's retiring from Kennewick schools after 25 years.
"I'm a numbers person. I just enjoy making things balance," she said. "I hope in my time here I've made some difference for our students."
Carol Miller, Lincoln Elementary School
"It’s exciting when you see the light come on. When they come into the library and are delighted that they’re going to check out books," said Carol Miller, librarian at Lincoln Elementary School."The most rewarding aspect is when you see them progress in their reading. Often times, children will get stuck in one genre or (type of book). When you see them make that leap to more challenging and engaging literature, your confidence grows that they will indeed be a reader."
Rex Olsen, district locksmith
Not long after Rex Olsen joined the Kennewick School District, something special happened: he met his wife.
He was working as a custodian at Park Middle School, and she was a teacher there.
"We actually met at a sock hop (at the school). She was chaperoning, and part of my beat was the area that she was in," Olsen said. "We started up a conversation."
They were soon married.
Olsen didn't stay at Park long. He moved over to the district's shop and become the locksmith, serving in that post for years.
In all, he spent four decades making Kennewick schools cleaner, safer and more secure, retiring earlier this year.
It was a great career, he said - from those special early days on through.
"I enjoyed working with all the different people. Each day, when I came to work, it was always going to be something different," he said.
Ann Wilson, Desert Hills Middle School
Ann Wilson was at a baby shower when a fellow attendee told her something that made her heart fill up.
The woman said that she had a good friend who was a teacher, and this teacher talked about Wilson as someone who really helped her. Who made her the teacher she was.
"It was very cool," Wilson said.
Wilson is an assistant principal at Desert Hills Middle School, and before that she was an assistant principal at Southridge High School. She's done a lot for students and families over the years, but she's also worked hard to coach and mentor teachers. It's been a passion.
"I believe in their ability to do a great job," she said.
Wilson is retiring and the end of the school year.
"I've loved working to make a difference," she said, reflecting back on her career. "I try to make a difference for people every day."
Larry Brookes, Tri-Tech Skills Center
"I've had students whose parents were also my students. I've been through it long enough, I've had three kids whose parents were my former students," Brookes said. "And anther cool thing is I now have eight former students who are teaching automotive. It's kind of neat that they're moving ahead and they enjoyed it so much that they want to do it themselves."
Diana Burns, Horse Heaven Hills Middle School
"I like working with older kids. I've been in middle school for something like 30 years. They come in as these little sixth-graders. They’re nervous and shy. And then in three years’ time they grow and develop, they mature," said Diana Burns, principal. "You think, 'These kids are turning out great.' It’s just fun."
Rhonda Crosby, Kamiakin High School
Rhonda Crosby has a candy dish on her desk at Kamiakin High School, filled with chocolates and mints.
It’s popular with students. They stop by frequently.
But it's often Crosby herself, not the candy, who makes them want to drop by. Coworkers say she brings a listening ear and a big heart to her job as attendance secretary.
She's been at Kamiakin for four years, and spent 20 years at Southridge High School before that. She started in Kennewick schools as a paraeducator at Lincoln Elementary School and Horse Heaven Hills Middle School.
"It’s been very fulfilling to me," Crosby said. "I feel fortunate that I’m able to do what I do, that the district has given me the opportunity to learn and grow."
Denise Hogg, Lincoln Elementary School
"Writing with kids is my passion. Way back when, when I was at Hawthorne Elementary School, I made this writing center. I'd go to these conferences (on teaching writing). Then finally I went to this Darla Wood-Walters workshop. She’d been down in New Zealand. Every day, their kids would read these little books, and they would write. They’d model a story and then they’d write. I thought, 'You know, (writing) is just like anything else — if you want to be good at it, you practice it every day and you get better.' So we followed that model," said Denise Hogg, a kindergarten teacher at Lincoln Elementary School.
Hogg has become known in Kennewick schools for her skill in teaching writing. Helping students learn and grow in that area "brings me joy," she said.