Several long-serving staff members retired from Waconia Public Schools this year, including Superintendent Dr. Nancy Rajanen, who discussed her career and retirement plans in a recent edition of the Waconia Patriot.
Of course, Rajanen isn’t the only staff member retiring this year.
Others include Peter Gustafson, the principal at Clearwater Middle School whose career spanned 35 years; Merry Anquist, who taught special education at Bayview Elementary for 24 years; Shar Hansen, who taught kindergarten at Bayview for 13 years; Corinne “Corky” Ibeling, who served as a district custodian for 13 years; Jolene Herington, who served as a media center specialist at both Bayview and Southview for 36 years; and Steve Hullander, who was a social studies teacher at Waconia High School for 34 years.
Several of these retiring staff members recently took a few moments to reflect on their careers.
Peter Gustafson has served as the district’s middle school principal for the past 20 years but he has worked in Waconia Schools since August 1979, which equates to 35 years of service to the district.
He started out as a guidance counselor for the junior high division of the combined Waconia Junior/Senior High School in what is now Bayview Elementary School. During this time, he also served two consecutive terms as the president of the Waconia Education Association.
After later becoming the dean of students for the junior high section, Gustafson was asked to lead a community planning committee toward the eventual establishment of a middle school comprised of grades 5 and 6 taken from an overcrowded Southview building and grades 7 and 8 from the junior/senior high school.
Gustafson was installed as the interim principal of the newly established Bayview Middle School and a year later, he was hired as the middle school principal. During this time, Gustafson was a key player in the planning of the Clearwater Middle School building, which housed the middle school program for the first time in 2001.
Under Gustafson’s leadership in the subsequent years, Clearwater grew in size both as a building (a major addition was completed six years after the building opened) and in enrollment (the school had 470 students in 2001 and has grown to 1,155 students this year). Gustafson noted work to redesign the middle school program, an effort that resulted in the variable length period schedule and markedly increased student test scores.
In a letter he submitted to the school board in January, Gustafson expressed his gratitude to those who entrusted him with the opportunities to exercise leadership in the district and serve the students and families of ISD #110. “It is with more than a little pride that I contemplate the current middle school program, faculty, and student body,” Gustafson wrote in his letter. “My children are grown but all have had very positive experiences during their times as students in District 110. This has been especially rewarding for my wife and me.”
In a Clearwater Clips article that ran in March, Gustafson noted that he was comforted by a bumper sticker that read, “Old Principals Never Die, They Just Lose Their Faculties.”
Shane Clausen will be the new principal at Clearwater Middle School.
Merry Anquist’s career as a special education teacher began at Mt. Olivet Rolling Acres in March 1971. Two years later, Chaska School District 110 took over the educational programming for the facility.
“I was asked to develop a program for the students at Rolling Acres and surrounding areas that would be attending District 110, specifically at the Chanhassen Elementary School, the following year,” Anquist recalled. “I was a teacher there for 10 years until my third daughter was born and decided I needed to stay home with all three daughters. With the addition of twins in 1984, my decision was a good one.”
Anquist began teaching at Southview as a half-time Title One teacher when her two youngest children, Molly and Michael, entered kindergarten in 1990.
“The following year, Rick Dressen offered me for a full-time Special Education Teacher position to develop a program for all the special needs elementary children who were returning to District 110 from previous out of school placements,” Anquist said. “When the Bayview Elementary was established, I was again given the opportunity to develop the special education programming for those new students. It does not seem possible that I have been employed in the Waconia Public School District for 24 years.”
Anquist said the most enjoyable part of her career has always been working with the students.
“My philosophy has always been to teach children to love themselves and the other facets of life and learning will fall into place. I truly believe District 110 has given me the tools and support to accomplish this philosophy,” she said, noting that she will miss her colleagues, the school environment, and especially the students.
“My retirement plans include certain parts of life you are not able to do because of the time restraints of most jobs,” she said. “I would love to spend more time with my six, soon to seven, grandchildren, my husband, mother, go shopping during the day, and take some craft classes.
“As someone pointed out to me recently, I’m not just retiring from the District 110, I’m also retiring from my stress, my commute, my alarm clock, and so many meetings. These aspects of education make my transition a little more bearable,” said Anquist, who looks forward to enjoying danceline and gymnastic competitions, sewing, crafts, helping in the schools, and continuing with Preptime Screen Printing during retirement.
Shar Hansen has taught kindergarten at Bayview since it changed over to the elementary school 13 years ago.
“It is bittersweet leaving Waconia Schools because of what I love is what I will miss the most. Of course, it will be the children and my colleagues. It has been a pleasure working along side all of them watching them learn and grow,” she said.
“I am planning many new adventures and continuing on with some familiar ones when I am done here at Bayview. Some of them include golfing, traveling, gardening, sailing, scuba diving and being with my family and friends.”
Jolene Herington has taught in Waconia at the elementary level for 36 years as a media specialist at both Southview and Bayview. She also taught after school and summer school reading programs during those years.
For Herington, she loved connecting students with books and she said she will miss “the interaction with the great kids and wonderful staff.” In retirement, Herington is moving to Branson, Missouri to be close to family, enjoy all the entertainment there, and the milder climate. She also looks forward to spending time with family and friends, reading, scrapbooking, and traveling.