At the Monday night meeting, the board recognized five educators for their 101 total years of service to Willard City Schools. Those honored were Spanish teacher Joy Buurma (retiring after 19 years with the district), educational aide Sally Frye (28), speech pathologist Carol Hiszem (17), elementary teacher Deborah Holthouse (12) and middle school reading specialist Kim Rice (25). Board members said they have had many years of dedicated service to the district and its students, noting the schools wouldn’t have been the same without them.
Willard High School Principal Chris Schaaf and elementary school Principal Tracy Stephens spoke about the contributions and impact each of the educators made.
“Joy is totally committed to our kids,” Schaff said of Buurma, who has worked as the district’s Spanish teacher for the last 19 years.
“Joy takes those kids and gets them through (difficult times and lessons). She treats every kid her like they’re royalty. The kids are going to miss her and I know I’m going to miss her being here.”
Of Frye, Schaff said the alumnus was someone all of the students felt they could go to — a wonderful quality for an educational aide. He said Frye is “like a second mom” to many of the students and has done “a fantastic job” with her past 28 years.
“As a graduate from Willard High School, it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to come back and work here with the students and the staff,” Frye said.
Hiszem served as a school pathologist for 17 years. Stephens said Hiszem said has helped a lot of children over the years with their language struggles.
“I’m really going to miss Carol,” Stephens said — a sentiment Hiszem echoed.
“I will miss this a lot and I will miss the kids a lot,” the new retiree added.
Holthouse, an elementary school teacher at Willard for 12 years, was described as a success story of a Willard student that grew up to accomplish great things and come back to the school she loved and grew up in.
“Deb just always has a polite attitude and she genuinely has the best interest of the kids at heart. She’s really going to be missed here,” Stephens said.
The teacher said she thoroughly enjoyed her time at the school and was “so thankful” to return to her home school, effectively coming full circle. Holthouse said teaching for the Flashes afforded her “so many opportunities.”
Stephens said she enjoyed a special relationship and friendship with Rice, and said she got to see many of those positive qualities that made her a great reading teacher over the past 25 years.
“She is truly in it for the children. Whatever they need, she’s there for them,” the principal said of Rice who has taught in every grade level, from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Rice told the board. “I can’t believe I got 25 years in. ... I love the kids and everybody I’ve worked with.”
Like any star player, each of the retirees were recognized individually. Board member Rick Willoughby then compared them to all star athletes.
“When baseball players are really good, you want to get their autograph,” he said. “This is a bunch of people that I really admire and I’d like to get your autograph.”
A baseball was passed to each of the educators, along with a permanent marker, allowing them to make a physical mark — a sign of admiration for the lives that they’ve touched.