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'Child advocates' leave big shoes to fill

Junior high teachers will retire early

Morrison Junior High teachers Libby Glazier-Timmons (left)  a sixth- and seventh-grade English teacher, and Melissa Nyboer, a sixth- and seventh-grade reading teacher, are two of three teachers who chose to retire this year – a year or two early – to save the jobs of younger peers.
Morrison Junior High teachers Libby Glazier-Timmons (left) a sixth- and seventh-grade English teacher, and Melissa Nyboer, a sixth- and seventh-grade reading teacher, are two of three teachers who chose to retire this year – a year or two early – to save the jobs of younger peers.

MORRISON – Libby Glazier-Timmons and Melissa Nyboer never intended to retire – at least not this year.

But the Morrison Junior High School teachers opted to retire early to spare the jobs of new teachers amid more than $500,000 in budget cuts for next year.

For Glazier-Timmons, of Lyndon, a teacher for more than 30 years, it was a no-brainer. She remembered what it felt like to lose her job – her first teaching job, after only 2 years, when Union Grove School closed – because of budget cuts.

"I was young and naive, but I wondered why all these these teachers [also in a contract-negotiation year] were worried about themselves and not about other teachers [who were losing their jobs]," she said. "I vowed then and there that, if I was ever in that position, that I would try to make it better."

But for Nyboer, 59, of Morrison, a teacher for more than 35 years, who planned to retire next year, it was a decision that took some thought – and a promise from the district that a young sixth-grade history teacher would be able to keep his job.

"I was not one of those people who thought about it. I was smack dab in the middle of teaching," she said. "But then the cuts started. … We have this young history teacher who was going to lose his job, after his first year. … So I asked if I retired, could he keep his job? If he could, then I would retire."

Glazier-Timmons, a sixth- and seventh-grade English teacher, and Nyboer, a sixth- and seventh-grade reading teacher, were two of three teachers who chose to retire this year – a year or two early – to save the jobs of younger peers.

Pam Bush, an elementary school physical education teacher, also planned to retire this year. She thought she would beat ovarian cancer, which she battled for a little more than 2 years, and enjoy retirement, but she died in late April.

The Morrison School District is losing six teachers to retirement at the end of this school year.

The release of a first-year teacher translates to a savings of about $35,000. But the retirement of a tenured teacher, at the top of the salary schedule, means a savings of closer to $85,000.

The retirements will enable the district to reduce its budget by about $600,000, but not release a single teacher.

Glazier-Timmons and Nyboer leave big shoes to fill at Morrison Junior High School, said Principal Darryl Hogue.

"They are both very veteran teachers who have a tremendous understanding of adolescence and the needs of adolescents, both academically and socially," he said. "They are perceptive child advocates, who … understand the uniqueness of [this age group]."

Glazier-Timmons and Nyboer are known and respected not only for their ability to get kids to understand the subject matter, but also for their ability to connect to students, said Bambi Carlson, three of whose six children have had classes with those teachers.

Glazier-Timmons, the parent of a 13-year-old, excels at building trust with her students.

"It's her personality. She just loves the kids so much that they know it," Carlson said. "She accepts them. She gets to know them. She asks questions that are outside the box, so it's not just, 'What's your favorite color?'; it's deeper.

Nyboer, too, has a gift for working with middle-schoolers.

"She is calm, cool and collected, no matter what is going on," Carlson said. "She always is level-headed and takes things in stride."

Both teachers say their connection comes down to a few basic components.

"Kids have to know you love, or have a huge appreciation for, what you do," Glazier-Timmons said.

"Kids have to know you really care about them, too," Nyboer added. "Kids have to feel like you love them, like a mom loves her kids. … We still get mad or frustrated, but we have to do it in an understanding and compassionate way.

"They have to know you're genuine," Glazier-Timmons concluded.

Glazier-Timmons and Nyboer are part of a rich culture of academic success at the junior high school, Hogue said.

For each of the past 4 years, Morrison Junior High School has been recognized with the Award of Academic Excellence from the Illinois State Board of Education. Ninety percent of all students, including those in special education, have met or exceeded standards in reading and math for the past 6 years.

The last day of school for students is May 28. The last day of school for teachers is May 30.

Neither Glazier-Timmons nor Nyboer has given much thought to the last time she will see her students, walk out of her classroom, or leave the school building.

"I don't think it's really dawned on us yet," Glazier-Timmons said.

"I sit in my classroom, and I think, they're cutting back teachers, and I think, my classroom probably won't be used," Nyboer said.

"I could take everything off the walls, take everything out, or I could leave it the way it is," Glazier-Timmons continued. "If I could leave it all up and lock the door and know it would all still be there, then I could leave."

Others retiring from area schools include:

– Chadwick-Milledgeville School District

Linda Kness, district secretary, 36.5 years

Deb Morgan, elementary Title I teacher, 27 years

Sue Williams, high school special education teacher, 30 years

– Dixon School District

Peggy Covert, elementary physical education teacher, 17 years

Vickie Glessner, fifth-grade teacher, 22 years

Peggy Higby, special education teacher assistant, 31.5 years

Janis Matha, secretary, 14.5 years

Mary Philbrick, elementary teacher assistant, 14.5

A. Catherine Ratts, middle-school special education teacher, 14 years

Carol Richardson, elementary special education teacher, 31 years

James Rodriguez, custodian, 9.5 years

Jill Stoker, kindergarten teacher, 23 years

Walter Wagner, custodian, 9.5 years

Janice Wiemken, middle-school teacher assistant, 9 years

– Erie School District

Deb Carpenter, district bookkeeper, 25 years

Gina Epperly, third-grade teacher, 35 years

Pam Klendworth, school nurse, 14 years

Linda Roberts, fifth-grade teacher, 24 years

– Morrison School District

Cheryl Geiger, fourth-grade teacher, 22.5 years

Deb Hauptman, first-grade teacher, 25 years

Cynthia Perrizo, elementary music teacher, 15 years

Mary Simmons, high school home economics teacher, 33 years

– Montmorency School

John Rosenberry, superintendent, 7 years

Marian Rosengren, first-grade teacher, 21 years

– Nelson School

Peggy Sandoval, physical education teacher, 27 years

– Newman Central Catholic High School

Diana Wade, math teacher, 36 years

– Oregon School District

John Geeves, special education teacher, 21.5 years

Joanne Pennock, junior high social studies teacher, 19 years

– Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico School District

Denise Cady, elementary Title I teacher, 16 years

Jan Halpin, pre-kindergarten teacher, 10 years

– Rock Falls Elementary School District

Marian Ulferts, fourth-grade teacher, 1 year (previously a teacher at Riverdale Elementary School, 36 years)

– Rock Falls High School

Jane Eichman, superintendent, 7 years (previously the superintendent at East Coloma School, 3 years)

– Sterling School District

Mary Nelmes, elementary music teacher, 34 years

Nancy Trainor, seventh-grade science teacher, 33 years

Sally Zuithoff, teacher assistant, 25 years

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