Steamboat Springs Today is the last day of school for students in Steamboat Springs -- until fall. But for 11 long-term employees of the Steamboat Springs School District, today is truly the last day.
This year's retirees accumulated a total of 244 years of service in or around Steamboat schools. They are teachers, bus drivers, office managers, librarians and a food services worker. Two of them, Cheri Daschle and Becky Hicks, are the last employees who worked at the old junior high school on Seventh Street. Another retiree, Bo Yennie, worked at Soda Creek Elementary School when it was the only elementary school in town. Bus driver Betsy Zimmerman once transported her children on her bus -- now her grandchildren ride along.
In a few minutes, all the staff members can tell you stories. They can tell you about change, such as more emphasis on state testing and improved technology. Another change they'll tell you about -- nearly unanimously -- is decreased respect from rowdier students.
But those are the same students the staff members named as the favorite part of their jobs, and the same students who inspired the staff to come to work every day, for as many as 30 years.
Jean Cooper, bus driver, 1980-2006 (26 years).
After 26 years, Jean Cooper is not sure if she wants to leave.
"I have mixed feelings about retirement," said Cooper, who has driven buses in Steamboat through all conditions. "I'm not sure if I'm going to enjoy it, but it's here."
Bus mechanic Curt Messing has a simple assessment of Cooper's ability to handle a 26,000-pound, two-wheel-drive school bus on Rabbit Ears Pass.
"Coming back (to Steamboat) in those blinding snowstorms, there's no one else I'd rather have driving than Jean," he said Thursday.
Betsy Zimmerman, bus driver, 1976-2006 (30 years).
For Betsy Zimmerman, driving a school bus is a family affair.
"I raised a kid in the back of that bus," she said. "Now I have grandkids on my bus. I'm on the second generation now, so it's time to...well, it's time to do some of my hobbies."
Those hobbies include tole painting, she said, which is painting on wood.
A lively woman of many interests, Zimmerman said driving fit her to a tee.
"I've been on some of the best trips a person could ever be on," she said.
Georgianne Nelson, nutritional services, 1995-2006 (11 years). Nelson declined a photograph and an interview.
Steamboat Springs High School
Martha Oman, media specialist, 1996-2006 (10 years).
Despite advances in Internet use and technology, librarian Martha Oman thinks books are here to stay.
"Some people talk about the demise of the book, but that just isn't going to happen," she said Thursday at the high school. "Everybody learns differently."
That includes Oman, who said that students taught her new things just about every day she worked at her job, which often was hectic.
"I'll miss being forced to do three or four things at the same time -- I work well in bedlam," she said. "But I'll be glad to slow down a bit."
Lynda Stahl, science teacher, 1983-2006 (23 years).
"My greatest love is anatomy and physiology," said Lynda Stahl, who taught for 13 years at the high school after spending 10 years at Steamboat Springs Middle School. "I think it's something that's really important for the kids -- they should know about their own body."
Seeing knowledge take hold was the joy of her job, Stahl said Thursday.
"I'm going to miss the excitement that kids get when they learn something," she said. "I'm going to miss seeing kids feel proud of themselves."
Steamboat Springs Middle School
Cheri Daschle, office manager, 1975-2006 (31 years, with two years off to raise children)
At the old junior high school on Seventh Street, Cheri Daschle made copies with an electric mimeograph.
"Somebody had to come from Denver to fix it," she said. "When that machine broke, it stayed broken for a long time."
Construction began on the middle school and Strawberry Park Elementary School in 1981. The doors opened in 1982.
"She has been the glue that has held this school together for a long, long time," counselor Margi Briggs-Casson said of Daschle. "She will be sorely missed -- she is somebody who cares, who cares about the school, about the kids, about the staff, and about making things run smoothly so that we have a successful day."
Adele Heilner, media aide, 1996-2006 (10 years).
To Adele Heilner, who declined a photograph, her job in the middle school library is simple.
"We're a support system -- we're here for the kids and the teachers," she said. "Making the kids feel welcome, and helping them out, is very important."
Heilner has a math degree, but said working in the library was "a perfect fit" for her, because it put her on the same schedule as her three children and because she has always loved books. Welcoming the students to the library came naturally to her.
Becky Hicks, teacher, 1976-2006 (30 years).
For 20 years, Becky Hicks taught reading to small groups of students with learning challenges. After moving into a traditional classroom teaching role, she taught world history and language arts to seventh-graders.
Whether it's to small groups or an entire class, Hicks said she has seen changes in teaching over the years.
"They didn't have the state criteria and awards -- like 'school of excellence' -- back then, that we have these days, but my (own) kids went to Steamboat schools and were still prepared for college," she said.
Pat Roberts, teacher, 1988-2006 (18 years).
As a resource teacher, Pat Roberts worked with the nearly 20 students on her caseload for their three years of middle school. Those students finish eighth grade today, which Roberts said is a good time for her retirement.
"I sort of planned it that way," she said.
During her career, Roberts saw a switch in special education from pulling students out of classrooms to an "inclusion" model, in which all children are involved in traditional classes.
"There's no perfect answer," she said. "Overall, I think it's much better for the students."
Strawberry Park Elementary School
Pam Brandt, office manager, 1979-2006 (27 years).
"There are a lot more kids now than when I came here," Pam Brandt said Thursday, looking back on nearly three decades of work. The native of Newbury, England, worked at Soda Creek for six years before moving to Strawberry Park, which she said has grown in enrollment from about 250 students to about 450 students during her tenure.
Brandt mentioned one other change.
"The testing thing, really," she said, referring to a growing number of standardized, state-mandated tests. "I think it takes away from other subjects."
Bo Yennie, physical education teacher, 1978-2006 (28 years).
"Physical education has had a lot of changes," teacher Bo Yennie said Thursday in the Strawberry Park gym. "It's more activity-oriented now than athletically oriented."
Whether its activities or team sports, from now on, kids at Strawberry Park will get their exercise in "Bo Yennie Gymnasium."
"I didn't know it was coming," Yennie said of the plaque bearing his name that will hang in the gym. "I'm very honored."