Retiring Waukee Teachers
May 6, 2021
As the school year comes to a close, Waukee High School prepares to say goodbye, and not just to the senior class, but also to four teachers that have seen the district grow and change over the course of decades. English teacher Ms. Hanigan recounted that she has seen “a tremendous amount of change” throughout her 30 year career at WHS. When she first joined the district, “we had about 300 students grades 9-12”, all of which, as Ms. Hanigan also explained, was at the high school level. The only other building in the district was, in addition to the high school, “a middle school with an elementary attached to it.” In her time with Waukee, Ms. Hanigan has seen five different superintendents and four high school principals. As she explained, “I’ve seen this district grow from a small 2A to a large 4A.”
Ending such an influential and eventful chapter of life is never easy, whether it is graduation or retirement, but one thing that never changes is the memories made along the way; those last, and sometimes make endings even harder. As Ms. Hanigan went on to explain she stated, “I will miss the students because they make me laugh and keep me young.” In addition to the students, she included that she will, “also miss my colleagues, especially those in the English department.” Just as every student does throughout their high school journeys, teachers also make many friends that impact their careers. Ms. Hanigan is retiring after a total of 33 years of teaching.
To teach at one school as long as some have, there has to be something about Waukee that has made these teachers want to stay. As told by longtime German teacher Mrs. Getting,or Frau Getting as students may know her, “WHS has amazing administrators, an awesome staff and students who are second to none.” The culture Waukee has built over the years has been impressive to say the least, and Getting is one of many that has seen it all unfold. A 24-year career at Waukee High School spans the building’s entire existence, and throughout this time, many memories have been made. Getting spent this time getting to know plenty of teachers and students, and said in regards to them, “I’ll miss my German students, the WHS staff and so much more. I am a member of a wonderful department, so of course, I will miss all of the World Language Department Team.“
Getting’s time in Waukee, while devoted to, “sharing my passion for the German language and culture”, was also spent with the International Club, the cheer team as an assistant fall/winter coachand as a planner of the school’s proms. Mrs. Getting taught for 29 years, and 24 at WHS.
Not everyone has spent their years at WHS. In the case of Spanish teacher Mrs. Baedke, only this last year has been at the high school level, after spending 14 years at Prairieview. Baedke noted that in her time with Waukee, one area of growth was assessment. As she stated, “I was working at Pairieview as the district studied and then transitioned to standards based grading.” No matter where they started, many longtime teachers have seen a variety of changes in the district, and as Baedke added, “that learning has made me a better classroom teacher.”
Mrs. Baedke has also had an experience that not many teachers have. Coming from Prairieview to WHS has allowed her to, as she stated, “teach students who were last in my class in eighth or ninth grade.” Seeing some students grow over the course of three or four years can be, “very special and not something that generally happens,” as she later acknowledged. In this rare experience, Baedke has even gotten the opportunity to teach, “two [students] who have learned with me for Spanish 1, 2, 3, and 4.” In her retirement, she explained how she would, “miss the community that we have built,” among other things; although she affirmed that while, “there are other things, none are as significant as the students!”
One quality Waukee has always had is its ability to create and promote new styles of learning, and has seen growth and great success in a variety of departments. Over Mr. Kotz’s 31 year teaching career, he has spent 26 at WHS, taking advantage of the growing district that allowed him to, “start extracurricular student groups to help grow popularity in our department.” Kotz’s time in Waukee has been spent with Technology Education as well as the boy’s golf team. He explained how he, “was fortunate to coach great student athletes and enjoy some great success,” as the boy’s golf coach.
When asked about his experience at Waukee, Kotz recounted how he has “grown immensely,” with his teaching that has spanned, in his words, “over half of my lifetime.” To teach for so long and to be able to say that goes to show just how dedicated and connected WHS teachers are. Kotz went on to state that, with seeing many people come and go he will, “miss a lot of people I have worked with here.” Additionally, he explained that he will miss teaching high school students because they have left a lasting impact, simply because they, “have helped me stay young.” Kotz’s connections and memories will bring his 31 year teaching career to a close. He ended his statement by adding, “Thanks to all of you I have had contact with,” and “I will cherish the relationships.”
Like many that have taught for such a long time, it would be hard not to form bonds and relationships that will last for the rest of their lives. As the 2020-2021 school year comes to a historic and almost bittersweet end, Waukee High School will say goodbye to a few great members of its staff. While the experience may be coming to a close, the memories will last forever, as will these teachers’ passion and devotion to this great district. As Mr. Kotz eagerly put it, “GO WARRIORS!”