The Delavan-Darien School District “Retirement Class of 2015” crossed virtually employee categories: administration, teaching, aides, and facilities.
The district’s retirees for 2015 include (name, current position, years in district):
- Jim Christopherson, Darien custodian, 27 years
- Cathy Theobald, Wileman Grade 4 teacher, 20 years
- Deb Maly, Wileman Administrative Assistant to the Principal, 19 years
- Hugh Petersen, Phoenix Middle School art teacher, 10 years
- Bill Rima, R.I.S.E. Program teacher at DDHS, 4 years
- Cora Rund, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, 3 years
Petersen, Rima and Rund all worked as teachers or administrators at other districts prior to coming to Delavan-Darien, putting the total years experience in schools at over 170 years. Here is a bit more about each retiree.
Christopherson started with Delavan-Darien in 1988 and worked custodial shifts at Darien, Park and Turtle Creek elementary schools. He also spent seven years at Phoenix Middle School. He was known to often bring his boat to work, having just come in from fishing on area lakes, or planning to head out to the launch after his shift ended.
“He has always done a great job and has gone the extra mile when needed,” said Facilities Director Gary Aull, noting Christopherson has often played the role of Santa for the 4-year-old kindergarten students. “He has also had to dig through trash and garbage to find staffs’ lost rings and student (dental) retainers.
“Now, after 27 years cleaning our schools, he’ll be cleaning lots of schools of fish.”
Theobald has spent 20 years in the district teaching fourth grade at all three elementary buildings. She started at Darien before moving to Turtle Creek and lastly Wileman Elementary.
“My greatest accomplishment has been my students, who have consistently performed well on state tests and earned honors in district events,” Theobald said.
Principal Shawn Madden said it’s obvious building relationships with students and families is important to Theobald and the work she does.
“She knows her kids,” Madden said. “She teaches with passion. She teaches with enthusiasm. And she teaches with heart. She’s one of the first people in the building and she’s one of the last people to leave at the end of the day. She is a spark plug.”
After retirement, she plans to teach English internationally at a to-be-determined location.
Maly started with the district in 1996 as an aide at Turtle Creek. The next year she moved to the Wileman library and in 2001 to the principal’s administrative assistant post, which she has held since. Maly was a familiar face at the school, greeting visitors in the main office and keeping the day-to-day business running smoothly for the three pricipals for whom she worked under.
“I have worked in education for over 20 years,” said Madden, who joined the district in 2013. “Bar none, she’s one of the best I’ve ever worked with. My staff and our students would agree with that. She comes in every day prepared, energetic, positive, and with a passion, commitment, dedication and enthusiasm that’s needed to run our office. She’s my right hand woman who has done a tremendous job for us and I’m so proud to have worked with her for two years. I wish it could be many more years.”
Petersen kept Phoenix Middle School colorful with wonderful displays of student artwork over the last decade. Before doing so, he worked at La Farge and New Holstein school districts. His career as an art teacher started in 1980.
Principal Hank Schmelz read from a list of comments Phoenix staff submitted about Petersen.
“He is the kindest and most helpful of people who always gave us a reason to smile. Students knew they were respected and cared about.
“Who else to thank but Hugh for the ever-needed splashes of color added to the halls at Phoenix?
“It has been a pleasure to work with Hugh. He has a balance of kindness, patience and passion for art that makes students love art. As a colleague, he always has a great sense of humor and ideas to make our school a better place.”
The art of Petersen’s students was tacked up often on the cork strips lining the halls, or in the display cases throughout the building. He also led a project to paint ceiling tiles that recognized the school’s “Student of the Month” winners. Petersen also regularly sent artwork to the Janesville Gazette newspaper for inclusion on its community calendar pages, and student artwork was often giving top placings in the annual Wisconsin Junior Duck Stamp contest.
Rima came out of retirement to join the Delavan-Darien Staff after 32 years teaching at Lakeland School in Elkhorn. He started as an academic tutor in 2011 and became the R.I.S.E. classroom teacher in 2012, taking on the challenge of helping many at-risk students graduate.
Under his watch, Rima has seen 56 students graduate who might not have otherwise.
“His job has entailed the raw challenge of working directly with students who, against all odds, held onto their goal of graduating high school,” DDHS school psychologist Diana Burgstede said. “These students are some of the hardest working and kindest young people you could want to know, but they were growing tired and close to losing hope when their daily lives demanded more than they could manage along with school. That is when bill stepped in and worked his magic.”
Burgstede said Rima always taught with elegance and grace.
“Bill knows the curriculum. He knows what he’s teaching his kids and he really knows his kids. When you put those two things together, that to me is elegance,” Burgstede said.
Rund has spent 23 years teaching in the classroom and 22 years in school administration. She worked primarily as a music teacher and theater director in Wisconsin and northern Illinois. She later became a principal in Mosinee and then moved into curriculum administration at CESA 2 and Big Foot Area Schools before coming to Delavan-Darien in 2012.
Rund was instrumental in leading curriculum overhaul efforts in the district as called for by the Delavan-Darien Strategic Plan. She and her teaching teams have implemented new reading and math curricula district wide, and the district is in the process of updating its science and social studies curriculum. The curriculum is aligned across all grades and schools in scope and sequence, allowing teachers to better work together on common goals.
“I’m extremely grateful to the things Cora contributed to our district the last few years,” said Superintendent Robert Crist, Ed.D. “I want to personally thank Cora for all of her efforts here. They were often unsung, but they should be sung and there should be high praises for her work in doing the fundamentals needed to get this district going in the right direction.”
Rund said when she is proud of the mark she’s left on the district.
“When I leave Delavan-Darien, I only leave in physical presence,” She said. “Teacher leaders and administration leaders I have worked with have done phenomenal things for the kids in this district. It’s hard work and we have made a difference for our kids.”