Puyallup: News

Retiring Puyallup School District staff share highlights, advice and hopes for the future

A group of retiring teachers from the Puyallup School District cerebrate their many years of serving students at the June 19 school board meeting.
A group of retiring teachers from the Puyallup School District cerebrate their many years of serving students at the June 19 school board meeting. Courtesy

When asked what was the best part of her career in the Puyallup School District, Jean Kinnaman didn’t need much time to think about her response.

“The highlight was working with students,” Kinnaman said. “They’re funny. They share their lives and their problems with you. That’s what keeps you coming back.”

After more than 25 years of working as a nurse and coordinator of health services with the district, Kinnaman retired at the end of the school year. The last day of school for the Puyallup School District was June 23.

Kinnaman’s not alone in retirement. From teachers to bus drivers, custodians to librarians, 53 staff members are also retiring this year. Together, they’ve worked more than 1,250 years combined in the district.

53 retiring staff members

1,250 combined years of service

Like Kinnaman, many retirees that look back on their work in the district remember the people they’ve worked with.

“Working with kids was the most rewarding — and watching them go somewhere,” said Gary Osborne, a multimedia teacher at Emerald Ridge High School. He’s been with the district for 21 years and coached cross country and track for around 18 years.

Sharon Gilleland-Potratz, a teacher for more than 30 years with the district, agreed. She said establishing connections with students helped them in all areas of their lives, not just in school.

“Give them a why — give them some real-life things to take away with them and not just the curriculum,” she said. “Give them the tools to be a lifelong learner and successful in whatever they want to do.”

Kalles teacher Victoria Hilmer got that opportunity as a co-founder of “Ignite the Future,” which prepares students for life after school. It was a highlight of her career.

“We prepare kids for the working world,” she said. “They get the idea of what it’s like to look for a job.”

While they consider their work with the district valuable, many staff members are looking to regain some freedom after retirement — free to travel the world, to spend time with their grandchildren and even to sleep in.

I’m looking forward to having a balance in my life.

Jean Kinnaman, 25-year staff member of Puyallup School District

“I’m looking forward to having a balance in my life,” Kinnaman said.

For others, teaching isn’t so easy to leave behind. They plan to return as substitutes.

The retirees received flowers, cards and booklets that highlights each staff member’s career.

“I would like to recognize these (staff members) and their dedication to the Puyallup School District and the students,” said communications director Brian Fox at the board meeting. “Each deserve our thanks and our appreciation.”

For a list of retiring staff, visit puyallup.k12.wa.us.

Allison Needles: 253-256-7043, @herald_allison

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