TORRINGTON – It goes without saying that a video conference school board meeting isn’t the way this year’s Goshen County School District No. 1 retirees wanted to say goodbye.
It’s not the retirement ceremony they wanted. It’s not the retirement they deserved after, in many cases, decades of working with Goshen County students. None of them wanted to end their career overseeing distance learning for their final months as teachers, as they did their best to reach their students under the specter of COVID-19.
But, as teachers always do – and as they’ve done since March 13, the final ‘regular’ day of school this academic year – they made the most of it.
The GCSD No. 1 Board of Trustees honored eight retirees during its meeting last week. The retirees joined the meeting via Zoom and while the refreshments, golden watches and rocking chairs that often mark retirement celebrations were notably absent online, the tears – from both retirees and their co-workers – were real.
“I understand how really difficult this is to say goodbye to folks we’ve lived with and worked with for 20 and 30 and 40 years,” Chairwoman Katherine Patrick said. “It’s a testament to our emotional investment in that task, this wonderful chance we have to live in the life of a child and student.
“We are losing over 200 years of experience with these retirements, which is going to leave quite a big hole to fill. Thank you for everything that you’ve given.”
Bus driver Paul Joy, Occupational Therapy Assistant Kathy Crowe, Lingle-Fort Laramie Elementary School teachers Becky Nighswonger and Gay Tucker, Lincoln Elementary School teachers Dody Kinney and Cindy Gulisano, Trail Elementary School Nurse Cathy Vasko, and Trail teacher Ted Kinney will all finish their final years with the district later this month – but the impact they’ve made on the students will last.
Ted and Dody Kinney
A big part of that 200 years of experience resides with the Kinneys, who are retiring at the end of this year. Both of their principals – Nyana Sims for Dody, and Tyler Floerchinger for Ted, choked up while discussing their respective retirements.
Sims said Dody, who taught for 41 years, taught many of her students’ parents while they were in school.
“Dody is a friend and a co-worker,” Sims said. “I’m so blessed that in the last couple of years I’ve been able to work with her in the role that I have. “She talks about our parents and says ‘yeah, I had them when they were in second grade.’ She’s taught generations. I know we’re going to see her in many roles throughout the community.”
One thing that set her apart, Sims said, was how much she cared for the students.
“She believes in working on the work and designing lessons and things that are going to help kids be thinkers,” Sims said. “She definitely thinks of them more than just a test score. She takes these kids home literally, she takes them home in her heart. She wears it on her sleeve.”
Ted stood out for his leadership during his time at Trail, Floerchinger said. Ted is someone who takes pride in his job, and his impact has been immense.
“Mr. Kinney has always been a guy who rides for the brand,” Floerchinger said. “He rides for Goshen County and he will do what you need him to do, and he will do what feels best for kids no matter what the cost. That’s a true test of a man.
“His leadership, since I’ve been there, has probably impacted me more than my leadership has impacted him. That is another thing I love about him. He has taught me a lot about being a principal and about things that never crossed my mind until I was able to sit across from him.”
But the Kinneys, for their part, both said they have enjoyed their years as educators in Goshen County.
“I feel amazingly lucky to have taught with the people that are here,” Dody said. “It has been a joy and an honor to teach in Goshen County. We had amazing learning opportunities. I feel like I had some wonderful opportunities to watch kids grow. It’s just wonderful to see these kids grow up.”
“The train is going to stop and we’re going to get off,” Ted said. “I think I’ll leave it at that because I’ll have to stop my video if I don’t.
“I really appreciate Goshen County School for letting us work here this long and it has been a lot of fun. We’ve grown a lot and seen a lot.”
Paul Joy, a bus driver with nine years of experience transporting students to and from school, always made students on his route feel welcome.
GCSD No. 1 Transportation Director Donna Bath said Joy was always there to greet students with a smile to start their day.
“For some of those nine years, Paul drove a special needs bus and many time Paul would come to me and tell me he had the best behaved bus of all the district buses,” Bath said. “I must admit, he was probably right.
“Paul’s goal was to always make sure his students started their day right. He always had a friendly smile and a warm hello to greet each of his students and he always gave them a high-five.”
Joy was known for making each student a “special somebody,” Bath said.
“I know those students are really going to miss Paul, along with everyone here at transportation,” she said.
Kathy Crowe is retiring from her post as an occupational therapy assistant after 19 years with the district. Special Education Director Trina Nichol said Crowe was held in high regards by her coworkers for a variety of reasons.
“She worked very closely with Brenda Sink (GCSD occupational therapist), who directed her work,” Nichol said. “Brenda said that Kathy is so giving amongst the kids. She’s always on the floor with them, and very patient. She’s good at getting kids to complete their work because she’s kind of a big kid herself.”
Nichol read off other accolades from Crowe’s co-workers, but Crowe isn’t letting go just yet – she’s already volunteered to work summer school.
“I don’t know if she still wants to or not, but I’m hoping we get to the point where I can give her a big hug.”
Crowe said she has enjoyed her time working for GCSD No. 1.
“I would just like to say ‘thank you’ to the district and everybody that I’ve met,” Crowe said. “I have enjoyed every year working with the district. I really have appreciated it.”
One of Lingle-Fort Laramie Elementary’s longest tenured teachers didn’t have much to say when it was her turn to talk to the board – possibly because she has already done it all during her time in the district.
“My whole career has been first grade at L-FL, so it hurts for me,” Nighswonger said. “I have such great memories as a parent, as a teacher and I appreciate all of the opportunities I’ve had with the district.”
L-FL Principal Cory Gilchriest said it’s almost impossible to sum up everything Nighswonger did during her career and what she meant to the school.
“We’re just going to sum it up and say ‘everything,” Gilchriest said. “She has been there and done that.
“She was the head teacher when I took over. The nice thing about that was that I always had somebody to go to with questions. I’d go to Becky when I had an idea, and she’d be like “’ay, that’s awesome, let’s do it.’ Or I’d get the ‘oh, Cory, I don’t know about that.’ She was the one who kept me out of trouble for a good portion of my career as a principal.”
Nighswonger’s future plans are to focus on being a grandmother.
Gay Tucker got her start teaching kindergarten in Texas, but she is retiring after spending twenty years of her life at L-FL, where she’s taught since 1997. She said she doesn’t regret any of it.
“I’ve been at L-FL exactly one-third of my life,” Tucker said. “Twenty years, and out of 60 that is a pretty long time to be in one spot, and I’ve loved every year, every grade level. Every single year has been a blessing.”
Gilchriest said it takes a special person to stick with teaching kindergarten for so long, but Tucker was the perfect for the position.
“I would tease her about her mental stability for doing that, but it’s more of an indication of how fantastic a teacher she is, and she has the perfect mentality for teaching kindergarten,” Gilchriest said. “They are her little ducklings. She wraps her arms around them.
“She’s the rock. She doesn’t change very much, no matter the circumstances. Even with all of this craziness, she just embraces it. She’s been a fantastic asset to Lingle and we’re going to definitely miss her.”
Cindy Gulisano spent her entire career teaching in Goshen County, and made the most of every opportunity she had.
During her career she taught multiple grades, served as an educational facilitator, attended conferences and made presentations around the country. She was named the 2001 Wyomig Teacher of the Year, and Nyana Sims, Lincoln Elementary principal, is going to be tasked with finding someone to fill her role.
“Her leadership is above all going to be missed,” Sims said. “She was the 2001 Teacher of the Year for the state, and has been an ambassador for education in the state.”
Sims said that throughout her career, Gulisano made it a point to put the kids first and do her best to help them become great students.
“What I love the most about Cindy and what I’m going to truly, truly miss is that she is a true champion of students,” Sims said. “She wants them to be readers. She wants them to be thinkers. She wants them to be lovers of learning, and that is definite in what she has shown throughout her whole 35 years in Goshen County.”
Gulisano said she’ll miss teaching in the district, and said teaching in the county has been “an amazing journey.”
“It was a wonderful place to teach and I still know so many of the families and so many of the students,” she said.
“I’m appreciative. There are a lot of people out there teaching in a lot of districts that don’t get the opportunities that I’ve had in this district. I’ve always said Goshen County is one of the best districts and I still believe that.”