WILLIAMS BAY — Six teachers and staff in the Williams Bay School District are preparing to retire in June, taking with them about 163 years of combined experience.

The retirees are:

  • Coe Reynolds, administrative assistant for business, 32 years
  • Nancy Anderson, registrar, 27 years
  • Betsy Arney, fifth-grade teacher, 23 years
  • Sandy Johnson, special education teacher, 38 years
  • Karen Hanson, third-grade teacher, 31 years
  • Laura Lombardo, special education aide, 12 years

The six women say they are more than co-workers.

“The people I work with are friends and family,” Anderson said, in a sentiment that won unanimous consent from the others who gathered around a table to discuss their decisions to retire.

They have formed a cadre of education veterans in the school district.

The six soon-to-be-retirees also wanted to mention one other member of their group, Sue Vavra, who retired in December after 23 years.

Vavra, who was administrative assistant to the district administrator, said she decided to retire earlier in the year so her replacement would have the benefit of working with and learning from Reynolds and Anderson.

“It’s a wonderful place to work, and a great group to work with,” Vavra said.

Williams Bay School Superintendent Wayne Anderson said this has become the biggest year he has seen for staff retirements.

In addition to the six teachers and staff, another six employees are leaving for personal reasons, said Anderson, who is not related to Nancy Anderson.

Wayne Anderson, who has been superintendent for the past six years, said the faculty and other staff members in the district work well together.

“Working in our district is like working in a large family,” he said.

Nancy Anderson said she had no intention of making her registrar‘s position permanent. It was supposed to be a temporary position until her own children were old enough to start school.

“It was going to be temporary until the kids went to school,” she said.

Now her daughters are in their 30s and married.

“It just seemed to be the time to go,” Anderson said.

Asked what she did as registrar, Anderson replied that she oversaw all student records. She added, “I fix all the things that Coe screws up.”

And Reynolds burst out laughing.

Reynolds said she had always planned for retirement at this time.

“My husband retired four years ago,” she said, so it is time to join him.

“I’m going to miss the people,” she said. She said she will miss the kids and watching them grow up over the years.

“It was just fun,” she said. “It was work, but it was fun.”

Hanson said it was hard for her to wrap her brain around the idea of retirement.

“The hardest part for me is to say the word ‘retirement,’” Hanson said. “Retirement is for old people, and I don’t feel old.”

But she said that the more she thinks about retirement, the easier it is getting to say.

“I’m going around saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to retire. Did you hear I’m retiring?’” she said.

Hanson said she will miss what she described as little, occasional victories in the classroom.

“When you struggle to get them to read, and then they come up and say, ‘I was up reading until 10 p.m.,” she said.

Johnson said she will miss the kids.

As a special education teacher, Johnson works with youngsters who have trouble reading or who have other difficulties learning. As one of four special education teachers in the district, Johnson has students from 4-year-old kindergarten to third grade.

“In special ed, you watch as kids make progress,” she said.

She said she keeps an eye out for former students who go on to high school and get on the honor roll.

Lombardo, a special education aide, works in the classroom with other teachers and also teaches students who need special help.

Lombardo said the sense of community in the school is strong.

“There are the friendships and also the exchange of ideas,” Lombardo said. Teachers talk to each other about new ideas they have read about and tried.

“It’s about how can we best serve the kids,” Lombardo said.

But while the retirees will miss their students and friends, there are things they want to do in retirement.

“I want to see what the world looks like in mid-August,” Hanson said.

“When you retire, you get your Septembers back,” said Arney.

Johnson said she has a grandson she is going to spend time with.

Lombardo plans to work part-time at the Barrett Memorial Library in Williams Bay.

Teachers start their school years in August and the new school is always busy.

“I’m not going to do anything until February,” Reynolds said. “And I don’t know what I’m going to do in February.”

Chris Schultz has been a reporter for more than 40 years. He has been with the Lake Geneva Regional since 2010. He covers the Lake Geneva City Council and the Lake Geneva area schools.