As another school year ends, Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools will say goodbye to 15 retiring staff members. The district will host a retirement celebration to honor the retirees on May 13, from 3:30-5 p.m., in the new Activities Center at Prior Lake High School.
The event is co-sponsored with the Prior Lake-Savage Education Association. Face coverings and social distancing will be required for the safety of all in attendance.
Retirees honored this year include:
English teacher, Prior Lake High School, 31 years of service.
Carol Aikey began working with PLSAS as an English and reading teacher at Prior Lake High School in the building that is now Twin Oaks Middle School. She began coaching the speech team early in her career, which she continued for 20 years. She spent 15 years teaching English in the FOCUS program (the alternative program prior to the formation of Bridges Area Learning Center) and the past 11 years teaching 11th grade honors English.
Aikey has also taken on numerous roles within the Prior Lake-Savage Education Association as a building representative, secretary and vice president.
“I will always be grateful for the amazing students and colleagues I have worked with over the years. Many of these colleagues have become life-long friends,” Aikey said.
She recalls a memory of a prank played on her by a colleague:
“I audited Arlys Johnson's depth skills class during my prep in order to strengthen my grammar skills. She somehow added me officially to the class roster. The surprise came when the list of prom queen candidates was printed from the rosters, and I was one of the 'girls' on the candidate list! I didn't win.”
In retirement, Aikey hopes to travel, read and continue learning the violin. In the fall, she will become a full-time caretaker for her twin granddaughters who were born in April, while her daughter and son-in-law are at work.
Accounts payable specialist, District Services Center, 20 years of service.
Gail Borchardt started working in the district in 2001 in census/transportation/health and safety. She moved into accounts payable/purchasing for about one year and then into accounts payable.
“My coworkers and the staff throughout the district have always been very positive and encouraging to work with,” Borchardt said. “I'll miss their kind support, friendships and camaraderie! I've also always really enjoyed the welcome back to school breakfasts that we've had each year. The energy was contagious and I hope they’re able to share them again soon.”
As for retirement?
“I'm looking forward to spending lots of time outdoors — off my chair — with my husband and family gardening and working on house and yard projects,” Borchardt said.
English teacher, Twin Oaks Middle School, 33 years of service.
Paula Case started at PLSAS as a fifth grade teacher at Five Hawks Elementary. As the district grew and new buildings opened, she moved on to teach at Grainwood Elementary, Glendale Elementary and Oak Ridge, which is now Twin Oaks. Case started working at Twin Oaks when it opened and is finishing her career there as a sixth grade English teacher. Case's fondest memory of PLSAS is when her two sons were in the middle school band. Grandma and Grandpa Case came to every concert and she appreciated how it was always such a celebration of music and family. Case says her most exciting plan is to not really have a plan.
“I will spend more time with my mother and my family,” Case said. “One of my sixth-graders told me that I am retiring because I have been ‘promoted’ to grandma.”
Kids’ Company assistant, Edgewood School, 18 years of service.
Ellen Dudzik began working at PLSAS in January 2003. Her first position was as a teaching assistant for the Early Childhood Family Education program and Circle of Friends Preschool. For her last four years she worked with Kids’ Company at Grainwood in the all-day preschool program.
“I have so many wonderful memories that continue to make me smile and be grateful for my time with PLSAS,” Dudzik said. “The incredible staff I worked with and lasting friendships that developed, the wonderful families that shared and entrusted their precious children to us, and of course the amazing kids. I absolutely loved teaching, nurturing and being a part of their first school experience. I leave with many cherished memories!”
“My husband and I are planning some European travel, spending more time with our grandchildren, fishing trips and finding our next dream home,” Dudzik added. “I'm taking up art classes which time didn’t allow for in the past. Also I would like to find a volunteer position that involves working with small children. I miss their bright minds and personalities so much! Our mantra as we take this next step into retirement will be carpe diem!”
Special education paraprofessional, Prior Lake High School, 15 years of service.
Cheryl Dymit has worked as a special education paraprofessional at PLHS for almost 15 years. When she first started working at PLHS, three of her five children attended school in the building and though they have since graduated, Dymit kept coming back because of the community she found there. Dymit witnessed a great deal of change at PLHS, including building projects to expand the school and she has always felt pride and commitment to the PLSAS community.
“I enjoyed and learned so much from the relationships with students and staff that will stay with me forever,” Dymit said.
After overcoming COVID-19 and battling cancer, Dymit said she and her husband now plan to make up for lost time with their grandchildren, family and friends.
“We also plan to spend lots of time at our cabin and work our way through our bucket list of travel destinations,” she said.
English language teacher, Glendale Elementary, 31 years of service.
Kelley Gerdes started teaching kindergarten at Five Hawks Elementary in 1990. She also taught kindergarten at Hidden Oaks Middle School (two kindergarten classrooms were relocated there during a space crunch) and Pond’s Edge Early Learning Center (now the District Services Center). She moved to Glendale when it opened in 1997. Wanting a new challenge, Gerdes switched grade levels and taught third grade. During this time, the English as a second language population was growing in the district.
“I decided to take a few college classes to better understand how I could help this growing population,” Gerdes said. “I ended up loving the area of ESL, teaching and learning and pursued the license to teach in this area.”
Gerdes has been teaching English language at Glendale Elementary for the past 16 years.
“Over the years, the children have given me many laughs, challenges and sometimes tears,” Gerdes said. “I will truly miss working with them. I have also formed lifelong friendships with many of my colleagues that I will take with me.”
For Gerdes, retirement will allow her more time with her granddaughter, family, friends and to travel.
“I may even write that children's book that is on my bucket list,” she said.
Early childhood family education, Edgewood School, 25 years of service.
Michelle Prosen has worked in family education and early childhood screening for all 25 years of working at PLSAS. She has taught in several locations within the district, including Pond’s Edge Early Learning Center (now the District Services Center). She also spent time on-location at local child care facilities and community rooms in income-restricted apartment buildings.
Prosen enjoyed sharing the district’s E-STEM focus throughout Prior Lake, Savage and beyond.
“I've had many wonderful opportunities learning with and from colleagues and families, but it would be hard to beat my experience representing Edgewood School at the Green Ribbon Schools Award ceremony in Washington, D.C. It was an honor to be chosen to represent the district, and ever so much fun to get to know my fellow travelers a little better,” Prosen said. “When I was pondering my decision as to whether or not to leave my position here, a fellow teacher gave me some great advice turn this chance into my 'inspirement' instead of a retirement. Not sure where I'll go from here but look forward with optimism to the many new possibilities not yet realized.”
Speech/language pathologist, Edgewood School, 15 years of service.
Deb Rubash began working with PLSAS students in early childhood special education and the life skills programs as a speech/language pathologist with the Minnesota River Valley Special Education Cooperative in September 1992.
Rubash soon became full-time in the ECSE program and saw the program move from Five Hawks and Hidden Oaks to Pond's Edge Early Learning Center, Northgate and finally to the current building, Edgewood School.
“I joined as a Prior Lake staff member when the ECSE program became a Prior Lake program in 2006 when Edgewood opened,” Rubash said. “I have remained in the same position over the years.”
“The Early Childhood Team at Edgewood is a special group of people,” Rubash added. “We truly work well together and support each other on professional and personal levels. I can't say enough about the whole team.”
In retirement, Rubash hopes to do a lot of traveling.
“I have a few places on my bucket list that continues to grow as time goes by,” she said.
Peer coach and District Environmental Learning Center coordinator, Five Hawks Elementary and Edgewood School, 35 years of service.
Sandy Timmerman started her career at Five Hawks Elementary in 1985 as a substitute teacher. In 1986 she took a long-term fifth grade position the second week of school. Timmerman taught fourth grade for the following two years before moving back to fifth grade.
In 1989 Timmerman began coordinating the annual Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center trip. When Grainwood Elementary (now home to La ola del lago Spanish Immersion) opened in 1990 as the fifth and sixth grade building, she moved and taught there for 16 years. In the fall of 2006, she moved to WestWood Elementary when it became a K-5 building. She stayed at WestWood until she became a peer coach in 2018. Timmerman has been a peer coach at Five Hawks for the past three years and this year she is also a peer coach at Edgewood School.
“My fondest memories will always be all the people that have touched my life over the past 35 years,” Timmerman said. “With my students I will remember the many trips to Wolf Ridge and the bond that we created in that one week experience that lasted for the whole year.”
"With the families it is the partnerships that we created. Thanks to all the parents who took on the challenge to chaperone trips to Wolf Ridge,” Timmerman added. “Then there are my colleagues who have taught me so much. There are so many lifelong friendships that I have made through my PLSAS experience. I feel truly blessed.”
Timmerman hopes to travel more and spend time with family and friends.
“When I am not traveling I will be spending time in my yard, around a bonfire, reading for pleasure, working on projects, volunteering and playing with my husband, children and granddaughter,” she said. “I plan to stay connected to Wolf Ridge and PLSAS in some way.”
First grade teacher, Jeffers Pond Elementary, 20 years of service.
LeAnn Weikle began her career as a first grade teacher at WestWood Elementary. She moved to Oakridge Elementary (now Twin Oaks Middle School) when it opened and then to Jeffers Pond Elementary when it opened. She has continued to teach first grade throughout her entire career and she says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Weikle also helped expand E-STEM education from Five Hawks Elementary to Jeffers Pond Elementary and then helped implement it at the district level.
“I am very proud of both the district’s and Jeffers Pond Green Ribbon awards but most importantly the learning and experiences for our students,” she said.
Weikle contributed to the Literacy Committee, E-STEM and Green Teams, Responsive Classroom and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Team and many more. She is an active supporter of Education Minnesota and PLSEA.
“Teachers need advocates so that they can do the work they were intended to, teach and guide our students. I am very proud of the PLSEA Education Advocacy Committee and the work we do to advocate with our elected officials on behalf of teachers and students,” she said.
Weikle says her fondest memories working in the district are the people of PLSAS.
“My students, their families, my awesome grade level teams! In addition to the great principals and PTCs I've been blessed to work with and of course our JP dogs!” she said.
“The adventure continues in our new home in Gustavus, Alaska,” Weikle added. She also plans to spend much of her time here in Minnesota with family and friends, as well as in Virginia Beach, Virgina, where her daughter and grandchildren live.
Also retiring, but not listed are:
- Jill Blair, special education teacher, Redtail Ridge Elementary, 21 years of service.
- Meghan Blomquist, second grade teacher, Jeffers Pond Elementary, 14 years of service.
- Mary Kowitz, child nutrition assistant manager, Five Hawks Elementary, 32 years of service.
- Eve St. Mane, Special education, Hidden Oaks Middle School, 22 years of service.
- Rita Savoy, early childhood teaching assistant, Edgewood School, 22 years of service.