Four Newcastle teachers are calling it a career

By: 
Avery Chick, NLJ Intern

Weston County School District No.  1 is bidding farewell to four teachers who are retiring this year, each of whom has served as a teacher for decades.

All four women chose Newcastle to be their final destination in education, and the impact of their retirement will be felt across the district. 

Michelle Ausmann and Jennifer Kadera at the elementary school are trading in their lesson plans for retirement, and Jan Ellis and Kathleen Engle from the middle school and high school  stepped away at the end of the year as well.

Ellis has taught for 46 years, and has called the halls of all three Newcastle schools home for more than 30 of those years. When asked about why she chose this to be her final year, she couldn’t really come up with a single reason. She had decided it was simply just time, she said — time for her to be a grandma, time for her to travel, time for her to pursue all of the tiny little projects in her head. 

It was simply just time.

“It’s time for me to move on,” said Ellis, who found it difficult to pinpoint a specific memory as the highlight. 

“I’d say when I get the opportunity to see my former students become successful and I get to see them continue to thrive in music throughout their lives,” she said when asked about her favorite memory. 

Though she will no longer be teaching, Ellis said she wants to find a way to encourage music in the youth and adults of Weston County. She said she wants to focus on musical theater and bring it back to the community, and admits that stepping away has not been easy.

“The outpouring of emotions, not only this year but particularly this month, have been overwhelming to say the least.  …,” she said. “I wanted to thank the people of Newcastle and all of my former students for everything!” 

“I encourage all of my former students to proceed to keep music thriving in their lives…” she concluded. 

Michelle Ausmann has been a role model for so many kids for so many years that she lost track of the numbers a long time ago. She has explained teaching as getting lost in impacting the kids — so lost, in fact, that she can’t remember how long she has even been teaching. 

“I didn’t even technically interview for the job,” she laughed. “I was hired on the spot.  … it all happened in a cafe in Lead, isn’t that crazy!”

Ausmann has been wanting to retire for a while, however, and like Ellis, she kept finding different reasons to stay.

“I was supposed to retire last year, so technically I’m on overtime,” she said.

“Memory is always the kids, it’s always the kids,” Ausmann smiled. “I know teachers always say it’s bad to have favorites, but mine was most definitely the kindergarten.”  


 

The motto in the kindergarten halls is “everyday is a happy day,” and Ausmann lived by that. 

“If you haven’t experienced being around these kids, you absolutely have to,” she said.

After retiring and with newfound time on her hands, Ausmann said she plans to attend her daughter’s wedding next week and then eventually just travel the world. She mentioned the Kentucky Derby as a particularly desired location.

“Everyday has created a memory for me. I go back through all of the kids and every single one of them has touched my heart. The kids always come back to me and I have loved every single second of it,” she said.

Fellow retiree Jennifer Kadera has been in a classroom as a teacher for 36 years, of which she spent over 20 in Newcastle. Teaching for so long rewards teachers with memories and lessons to last a lifetime, she said. Connections get made with staff and students alike that are irreplaceable.

“I’ve had lots of opportunities with the teachers and children making memories, so I’ve had many wonderful years teaching,” Kadera said, when asked why she chose this year to be her final hoorah. 

“I feel like it’s just time to give it up to someone else that will also cherish the wonderful friendships and memories I’ve made through all of these years. It’s time to give it some young blood!” she said.

Kadera, who had taught at Newcastle elementary earlier in her career, had gone to Sheridan to teach until Ausmann convinced her to return to NES for her final teaching years. The two formed a pact, and agreed to go out together this year.

Teaching for so many years has made it difficult for the retirees to choose a favorite memory. But Kadera spoke about her students when asked about her favorite memory. 

“Just this year, out on the playground, a little boy came up to me and said, ‘Can’t you just hang on for one more year?’” she said. 

She also mentioned a little girl who drew a picture of her. 

“It’s all about the relationships that you make,” Kadera said.

Kadera said she loves the growth she sees from the kids and even their eagerness to learn more and be at school. Some kids have come up to her to say, “Mrs. Kadera, I love you, I don’t wanna go home!” 

“You get rewards from your children every day. You see their growth every single day,” she said.

Her advice for teachers? 

“Enjoy every single day, and have a positive attitude. Cherish and absolutely love your job and everything about it.” Kadera said.

Kathleen Engle has been teaching in the district for 37 of her 41-year teaching career. Before coming to Newcastle, Engle got her start in education in Gillette, teaching elementary physical education and coaching several sports. 

“I don’t know that there was really a reason to be done, I just felt like it was time for me to be a grandma, spend more time with my husband and travel,” Engle said. 

Engle said she gained many experiences and created relationships with a variety of people. Her
favorite memory? 

“Definitely being a part of all my students’ education,”she said. “I absolutely adored their energy and their laughter and then the last 10 years being able to teach teachers has been such a highlight.”

“Making sure they will be successful and helping them and supporting them as they become veteran teachers was really special, … being a systematic change in hopefully making Weston County School District 1 a better place,” she added.

As a retiree, Engle said she intends to continue networking with everyone she’s connected with in the district, and hopes they still reach out to her if they ever need anything — or just a little advice. 

“I hope that if they are in the teaching field, I would leave them with the joy and passion that I have felt for education and educators over the last 41 years,” she said, noting that she is particularly proud of the fact that so many former students came back to Newcastle to teach.

“One of the best things I had the pleasure of being a part of is that 23 of the teachers I have been able to train have gone through our school system.” Engle said. “I hope my efforts over the last 41 years will have a lasting impact on those who I have had the good fortune to work with, students and teachers alike.”

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