By Julia Jagodzinski
WINSTED, MN Two women who have devoted decades to helping students at Holy Trinity School in Winsted are retiring this year.
Before starting at Holy Trinity Elementary School in Winsted, Diana Thompson was a stay-at-home mom, taking care of four boys and four girls.
Since then, she has taken care of countless other children during her long career.
Thompson is retiring after 30 years at the school.
Thompson started working at Holy Trinity when her youngest was in school. She was looking for something to do outside of the house, and the hours at Holy Trinity worked great for her.
“When my kids had off, I had off, so the hours worked perfect,” Thompson said.
Thompson has had many jobs at Holy Trinity. She started as a preschool aid, and has worked as the librarian, the nurse, the secretary, and a few other jobs that they needed her to cover. She doesn’t have a favorite among them, however, recess was probably one of the most fun parts of her work at Holy Trinity.
“I’ve had plenty of tricks played on me. The kids would sneakily place leaves in my hood so that when I put my hood up, I would be covered in leaves. They’ve also placed a pair of shoes in a pile of leaves, making me think that someone was buried underneath the pile,” she said.
One of the hardest parts of the job for her is when kids get hurt, and trying to get in touch with the parents to tell them that their child is hurt. There was a student at the old elementary school who got caught under a merry-go-round, hurt their leg, and needed to have a cast on for a while as a result. Thompson also recalls a student who got hit in the eye with a bat when they were playing softball, and, more recently, a child who got a few teeth knocked out when hit in the mouth with a Frisbee.
Her favorite part of her job is being with the kids. She became good friends with the students in the class that just graduated this year, as well as many other classes.
“We used to pretend that the little building that was by the old elementary school was La-La Land, so I would say to them, ‘Let’s go to La-La Land!’ So then we would skip to La-La Land,” Thompson said.
What made her stay at Holy Trinity for the amount of time that she did was the teachers’ concern for the kids.
“They keep them in at lunch time sometimes. It’s not like they’re punishing the kids; they just care about the their education and how they are getting along in school. They want to make sure the kids are learning,” she said.
Thompson said she is very surprised that it has been 30 years. When she started, she told her kids that she would work there for 10 years.
“At that 10th year, I didn’t even think about it anymore, I just kept on working,” she said
Helping the kids is the thing that Thompson will miss most about working at Holy Trinity. She helps the students with their schoolwork if they need extra help. She also takes care of them if they aren’t feeling well or if they get hurt.
Thompson said that she will volunteer at Holy Trinity after she retires because then she won’t feel like there is such a big void in her life after she retires.
“I don’t have any hobbies besides gardening, so I am going to help the kids with their schoolwork if they need it. I won’t have to worry about time, so I can take as long as I want to help them,” she said.
Joanne Kautz is retiring after 28 years as a preschool teacher at Holy Trinity in Winsted. Although she worked other places before starting at HT, children have always been a big part of Kautz’s life. Before she started working at HT, she had her own preschool business in Silver Lake, worked at Children’s Castle, and at Wayzata Montessori School.
One of the reasons Kautz became a teacher is because the director of the program at the Wayzata Montessori School, where she was a teacher’s aid, told her that she should get a degree in the teaching field. However, what mainly influenced her to want to become a teacher is her love of children.
Kautz said she thinks that the job is easier now than it was when she started. She is more relaxed about things because she knows what she is doing. It’s not a mystery to her how to handle situations in the classroom anymore.
“When you first start, it’s like getting your feet wet for the first time. ‘They do this, and how am I supposed to handle it?’ Now, you mostly know what you’re supposed to do,” she commented.
Kautz’s favorite part of the job is watching the kids learn. She loves to see the looks on the kids’ faces when they finally understand something, knowing she helped with that.
“You hear them singing a song, or you hear them say something, and you know it came from you; that is just so rewarding,” Kautz commented. To her, the hardest part was going to be saying goodbye to the students and staff on the last day of school this year.
One of the main reasons that she has stayed so long is because of the staff of Holy Trinity.
“I like the staff here; they are great people,” Kautz said.
To Kautz, it only seems like she has been teaching for a long time when she looks at the group pictures of all of the classes she has taught. Otherwise, she doesn’t feel like she has been teaching for that long.
Kautz said that, most of all, she will miss the kids.
“I’ve been doing this my whole life, pretty much since I got out of college, so kids are my life,” Kautz said.
When she retires, she is planning on being a substitute teacher, as well as doing some traveling with her husband.
“I’m also looking forward to not having to get up early. I’ll just wake up, read my book, say my prayers, and do my exercise.” Kautz said.