When Sheila Jangaard began her teaching career at Artondale Elementary School in 1974, it was the era of Watergate, the Internet didn’t exist and smartphones were relegated to science fiction TV programs like “Star Trek.”
Today, the nation’s politics and technology have changed dramatically. But one thing that hasn’t changed is Jangaard’s love of teaching and the students she taught during a span of nearly four decades.
The love her students — current and past — have for her also remains undiminished over time. A retirement party was held Feb. 13 in the gymnasium at Artondale Elementary School.
When Jangaard walked through door, she was met with the smiling faces of throngs of students old and new, school faculty and staff members.
Her first reaction?
“Well, I didn’t expect all this,” she said with an appreciative smile as she was gently mobbed by well-wishers, many of whom she posed with for photographs.
It’s not every day one says a professional goodbye to someone who has dedicated her life to teaching young people. Jangaard taught some first grade, but mostly second-grade students.
“Is life good or what?” she asked at the party in her honor. “This is just so exciting.”
Jangaard’s career got its start with, of all things, dancing.
She had been going to school with the idea of becoming a dancer and was teaching the art. It was only when someone pointed out that she should junk the idea of being a dancer and become a teacher that she paused.
“Whoa, that’s a great idea,” she said from her home Monday following her retirement party.
Jangaard earned degrees at Pierce College in Lakewood and Central Washington University in Ellensburg before she earned a master’s degree in elementary mathematics from City University in Seattle.
When she arrived at the Peninsula School District, she started to teach physical education to kindergartners through first-graders. Not even a series of being let go due to reductions in force could dissuade her from teaching, largely because district officials always told her not to worry, that she’d be back.
She eventually settled in as a second-grade teacher at Artondale, where she happily remained for nearly 40 years, and she made quite an impression on students and fellow teachers.
“It was good having her as a teacher,” said Jason Dupuis, who graduated Jangaard’s second-grade class in the early 1980s. “This moment is more important now.”
His brother Sam, also graduated from Jangaard’s second-grade class — in the late 1980s — and his wife, Kelli, graduated in 1996 from Jangaard’s second-grade class.
“Awesome,” she said. “She’s a really great teacher.”
Her Artondale coworkers were just as smitten with her and her gift for teaching.
“You cared the heck out of thousands of kids,” Principal Jacque Crisman said.
Crisman relayed a funny story about how Jangaard told her every year she feels sorry for her colleagues because she has the best class in the school again.
A fellow teacher had equally high praise for Jangaard.
“You’ve contributed to the culture of this school,” said Theressa Prather, calling Jangaard a support system for her and other teachers. “Sheila made kids love school. They wanted to see Mrs. Jangaard and make her happy.”
Truth be told, Jangaard said her students made her just as happy.
“It’s just this excitement of seeing them and finding out who they are,” Jangaard said of the early-morning rush of kids to start her school day, trying to put into words what she finds so appealing about teaching. “It is my favorite time of day.”
Jangaard’s teaching career, which ended after she worked a few days at the beginning of the current school year, has been satisfying.
“Teaching is the most awesome profession in the world,” she said.
While she does miss the everyday interaction with “her” children, she’s also excited about this new phase of her life.
On Monday of last week, she and her husband, Loren, returned from a multiple-day trip to Leavenworth, the Bavarian village in Chelan County.
Jangaard said that, in the past, she would have been in a hurry to get back on Sunday so she could prepare and be ready for Monday’s class.
That’s not a concern any longer, and she’s enjoying the freedom.
“We can get back as late was we want to,” she said with a smile and a twinkle in her eye.
In the meantime, the garage at her house is only now about half-filled with school materials, with plans to give the rest to other teachers who want them. Jangaard said she will donate to charity whatever materials she can’t give away.
She remains cognizant of how fortunate she was to be a teacher for 40 years, how much she enjoyed it, how many lives she intersected with and impacted in a positive way.
“I’m not sure what to say or how to say it, so I’ll just say thank you,” she said at her retirement party. “This is just an amazing time for me, and I just can’t thank you enough.”Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.