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Best wishes to retiring teachers

Brainerd Public Schools are the midst of retirement celebrations for 15 of our teachers, who have dedicated their careers to our community's children. 

Kathryn Donnelly, Lynn Holbrook, Kenneth Perry, Nancy Evans, Suzann Kordell, Nancy Pikula, Jim Gogolin, Michael Leitch, Carl Schirmer, Patti Gogolin, Pamela Olson-Lorenz, Jeanette Smith, Sara Hight, Hope Paulson and Todd Watson.

As they look back on their teaching careers, I hope they can grasp just a portion of the tremendous impact they have had on their students and colleagues. In the midst of end-of-year activities, I wanted to capture the thoughts of a few of our retirees as they look to the future.

Pam Olson-Lorenz spent 35 years with the school district, most recently as a teacher with the Paul Bunyan Transition Plus program, which is a program for adult students with disabilities ages 18-21 who have already completed 12th grade. Olson-Lorenz will look back fondly on the diversity of teaching opportunities she had within the district. As for her students, “I hope they know that I genuinely cared about them and that there will always be people — if the students advocate for themselves — who will be there to support them.”

Kathy Donnelly has taught in our school district for 34 years. Currently an adaptive physical education teacher at Riverside Elementary School, Forestview Middle School, and Brainerd High School, Donnelly has also coordinated and coached with the Special Olympics program in Brainerd for 30 years. Donnelly hopes she taught her students with special needs that they have the ability to participate in activities. Donnelly assures me that she hopes to be involved in the school system in some manner in the future.

Ken Perry has taught eighth grade earth science in the district for 26 years. Beyond the classroom, Perry ran two extra-curricular programs. Sixteen years ago he started a flyfishing course during which he taught students to tie and cast flies. Six years ago he started a birding club to take advantage of the tremendous school grounds at Forestview. To his fellow staff members, Perry says, “Find your passion and share it with the kids.”

Jim Gogolin is the social studies department chairman at Brainerd High School where he has taught for 26 years. “I hope my students have developed the capacity to learn and think,” he says. “Also, because I am primarily a geography teacher, I hope they have a better understanding of the world around them.” “I have loved my job everyday. I have been very blessed to be a teacher who has enjoyed his work.”

Carl Schirmer has taught physical education at Lowell Elementary School for 25 years. In addition, he has coached boys and girls cross country, boys swimming, and boys and girls track, which he plans to continue. When Schirmer reflects on his teaching experience, he says, “I always like to see the awards the kids have accomplished at the end of the year and how much they have improved and grown.”

As for future plans, these retirees have exciting days ahead. Olson-Lorenz would like to travel and volunteer. “Whatever I want,” Donnelly says with a laugh. “I've been going to school for 51 years and I don't know what it's like to have a fall off!” Perry plans to continue working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as well as develop science curriculum for a textbook company. Gogolin is looking forward to “doing what we want when we want to.” And Schirmer's plans brought a smile to my face. “Cross-country ski in the daily light. Ride on bike trails and enjoy the fall colors. Oh ... and shovel the driveway before cars pack the snow down.”

To these and all of our retirees from Brainerd Public Schools, a fond farewell and best wishes in all they hope and plan to do with their newfound time.

STEVE RAZIDLO is superintendent of Brainerd Public Schools. 

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.