Nancy Wittman-Beltz has been an educator for 46 years; a principal in Eastern Carver County Schools for 26 years; the building leader at Jonathan Elementary the last 23 years.
Hanging on her wall in her office is a saying: “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” Walking around Jonathan Elementary with Wittman-Beltz, who is set to retire June 30, it’s clear, even after all of these years, she’s still learning.
And that’s what makes it so difficult to step away.
She loves what she does. She loves the kids she’s around each day. She loves the people she works with. She believes in all of them; in all they have done, all they do, and all they plan to do.
“Believe in every kid. Hang with them. Don’t ever give up on anyone. And that goes for adults, too. Believe in them, listen to them, love them,” said Wittman-Beltz on advice for the future principal.
Holly Koenen and Tracy Rundell, leaders of the Jonathan Elementary PTO, said Wittman-Beltz is the “heart” of JES.
“She gives it life and her values and attitude are reflected in the students and staff that walk the halls. Mrs. W-B, as she is frequently referred to, has high expectations and recognizes the potential in everyone,” they said.
Wittman-Beltz worked outside of the District for 20 years, coming to Chaska from Northfield in 1995. She served as principal at Chaska Elementary for three years before taking over at Jonathan Elementary in 1998.
She’s one of two principals the school has had since opening in 1991 along with Richard Ewert.
“It’s been a great family. A great learning community. I’ve loved every minute. People are so genuine. People from the community have really rallied together, supported each other. It’s going to be hard. But it’s time. Part of it is my age, but I also want the learning community to have a new breath of fresh air. I think it’s only fair that I let someone else enjoy it as much as I have, Wittman-Beltz said.
“I don’t even know what I’m going to do. This has been such a big part of my life. I guess we’ll find out July 1,” she added.
Wittman-Beltz has been around for multiple enrollment boundary changes. Families from Victoria once sent their kids to Jonathan. She’s seen second generations of students come through the doors. If her car needs an oil change, she takes it in to a former student. The same when she needs a dentist.
“I think when you first get into education you wonder if you’re really making a difference. How am I, really? As I’ve grown in this profession throughout the years, I meet former students. Maybe they’re doctors now, or they work in sanitation, or some other profession. What we’re trying to do as educators is trying to grow these kids into the best citizens of the Earth they can be,” Wittman-Beltz said.
Jonathan Elementary, a kindergarten through fifth grade building, has around 625 students yearly. Wittman-Beltz believes every student follows their own path. It is why she finds herself walking the halls, visiting classrooms, checking up on students, every day.
Education to her is about “encompassing the whole child.”
“(Nancy) makes it a point to know all 600 students by name each year and takes the time to develop those important relationships with families. She has left a lasting impact on staff, current students, past students and families,” Koenen and Rundell said. “She is frequently heard chanting ‘JES is the best’ and that is in large part due to the wonderful welcoming environment she has helped foster at our school. Mrs. Wittman-Beltz is loved and respected by all and will be greatly missed. We wish her the best and thank her for her years of dedication to our school.”