Retiring staff

Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools this month is recognizing several retiring staff members. 

Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools this month is recognizing 11 teachers and other staff members who will retire after the 2019-2020 school year.

A car parade honoring them is planned for May 21 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Prior Lake High School. The retirees will be spaced, maintaining social distancing, along the sidewalk of the lower entrance. Drivers are asked to stay in their vehicles but can wave and offer congratulations from their window.

Parade participants are asked to enter via 154th Street and continue past the student entrance, exiting to the right of Dan Patch Stadium onto 150th Street West.

Cards may also be sent to the District Services Center, Attention: Martha Walz; 4540 Tower St. SE, Prior Lake, ZIP code 55372.

The district provided brief biographies for the staff members.

Jane Balow, the Synergy/Gifted and Talented teacher at Five Hawks and Jeffers Pond schools, started at WestWood and Five Hawks elementary schools and has taught at several more during her 20 years with Prior Lake-Savage. Each year, she splits time between two or three buildings.

Her fondest memories of the district involve working with the staff, students and parents. After the pandemic, she plans to travel and spend more time with her four grandchildren and the fifth due in September.

Lori Bartman, a special education teacher at Hidden Oaks Middle School, has worked in that capacity for 34 years at various schools. She came to Hidden Oaks Middle School when it opened in 1989.

Working with her students will always be among her fondest memories, but she also recalled a tradition of caroling for senior citizens in the community with Hidden Oaks staff. They rode on a hay wagon and stopped for chili at the end of the day.

She plans to travel with her husband and spend more time taking care of herself and tackling home improvement projects.

Tim Bell, principal at Five Hawks Elementary School, held that position for all of his 18 years with the district. His fondest memories are the 18 first days of the school year, with their excitement, possibilities and new students who think he's the best principal ever.

In retirement, Bell plans to enjoy a little slower pace and to find out what his next adventure will be.

Ida Clark, Kids’ Company assistant at Jeffers Pond, started in March 1994. After six years, she left the district to become an elementary teacher at Prior Lake Christian School before returning to Prior Lake-Savage in 2001.

She said her fondest memories are of seeing former Kids’ Company students go on to become vibrant, responsible adults. In retirement, Clark plans to volunteer and spend more time with her family and friends. She would also like to go on short-term missions trips and travel with her husband.

Linda Dankers, a special education teacher at Prior Lake High School, started as an English Language-Learner teacher at Glendale Elementary and Hidden Oaks Middle schools 19 years ago. Since then she held several positions around the district. She said her wonderful students and colleagues were her fondest memory.

In retirement she plans to relax, spend more time with family and friends, help others through ministry and travel to warm places during winter.

Nonda Henshaw has taught second and third grade at Five Hawks for her 15 years with the district and said field trips with the kids are her favorite memories.

Henshaw said she's looking forward to unplugging as soon as she retires and spending more time with family, travel and hobbies.

Todd Kemper, seventh-grade science teacher at Hidden Oaks, began as a full-time substitute teacher at the high school in 1983. Later, he taught in Cold Spring and St. Paul before returning to teach science at Hidden Oaks in 1994.

Kemper said he has fond memories of each and every one of the students, athletes, coaches and colleagues that he has worked with. He and his wife are new grandparents, so he plans to spend plenty of time in the role of grandfather when he retires.

Paul Larson has been a physical education teacher at WestWood Elementary since he started at the district in 1981. He has also been the head girls varsity basketball coach from 1986 to 2009 and an assistant varsity football coach from 1986 to 2003.

One of Larson's favorite memories of teaching is the annual track-and-field day at the high school. In retirement, he'd would like to learn to play an instrument.

Laura Macblane, a life skills teacher at the high school, started with Prior Lake-Savage as an autism spectrum disorder consultant for the secondary level. She served in that position for eight years until taking her current position in 2015. Every student and family taught her something, she said.

In retirement, Macblane said she looks forward to sleeping in, not driving in rush hour snowstorms, and spending time with families, hobbies and travel.

Jim Strandemo started at Hidden Oaks in fall 2000 teaching eighth grade American history and has taught global studies for the past seven years. He has also been the boys assistant golf coach for the past 11 years.

He said his fondest memory is meeting students, families and teachers over the years, including a student who gave him a fleece golf blanket made by the student’s mother.

In retirement, Strandemo plans to play golf, exercise and travel.

Gary Thorsett began his Prior Lake-Savage career in 1996 as the direct backup to the network technician and the technology support technician. At that time the Technology Department consisted of two people. Now a technology support technician, he has worn many hats.

Thorsett said he's proud to have spent each day helping staff fix problems so they could continue working and teaching. He helped equip each new and renovated building.

In his retirement, Thorsett plans to spend more time fishing, traveling and exploring other interests.

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