Two long-time teachers to retire at end of school year

This article submitted by Linda Stelling and Michael Jacobson on 5/5/99.

Editor's Note: Paynesville schools will see at least seven retirements this year from their teaching and administrative staffs. Due to this large number, two retiring teachers will be featured each week until graduation week.

This week's featured teachers:  Clarice Stumo  •  Rita Holm

Stumo retires after 32 years as an elementary music teacher
Stumo Clarice Stumo was in tears Thursday afternoon following her last elementary music program.

Stumo received a standing ovation from the parents tha were present and a bouquet of flowers from the elementary staff. On Friday, she broke down in tears again after Pat Kavanagh and Gloria Tintes sang a tribute to her during a Gemini Rising program at the elementary school.

"I kept telling myself that I'm not going to cry when someone brings up the subject of my retirement. I like to stay in the background; however, before I know what is happening, I'm in tears," she said.

Stumo taught in St. James and Fairmont before coming to Paynesville. "I also taught three months in Belgrade as a long-term substitute," she said. When the position at Paynesville opened up, I opted to teach in Paynesville instead of taking the Belgrade job full time. We were living in Paynesville and it meant a lot less driving," Stumo said.

For 22 of her 28 years in Paynesville, Stumo moved from classroom to classroom with her supplies on a cart. It wasn't until the new addition was built onto the elementary school, that Stumo was assigned a music room she could call her own.

"These words are difficult to say, but there is a time in life for everything, and this is the time for me to turn my position over to another. I trust that person will do their best to bring with them new talents and ideas that will benefit this very special teaching position," Stumo said.

"During my 32 years of teaching music, I have tried to achieve high standards, show my love and concern for each student, and give of myself as the annual goals were anticipated through the years.

"When I arrived in Paynesville, the administration gave me room to grow and develop. I found a cart with a record player, records, and a box of rhythm instruments. A wonderful challenge was ahead. The opportunities for building an elementary music department were great," she said.

"Pushing carts from an office area to each classroom lasted a lot longer than I had hoped. Having a music classroom the past several years has been a dream come true for the students and myself. Paynesville elementary students have been intelligent, willing, hardworking, and lots of fun," Stumo said.

"I have enjoyed a long standing association with the national and state music teachers organizations. I was an early advocate of organizing the elementary music teachers. In 1975, I worked on a committee and became a charter member of the Minnesota Elementary Music Educators organ-ization. After serving on that board for many years, I have enjoyed being a resource person assisting at the annual conventions. Colleagues around the state have been wonderful mentors showing me what teaching could be."

Stumo said in looking back, that deciding to teach little children was one of the best decisions she ever made.

"Other than my family, teaching music became the next love of my life. It has made me realize how very unique each child is and how very special they are. I feel fortunate for having spent my life in an elementary school. A place that makes a difference in the lives of children. Music, a subject that touches the mind and spirit, has been worth doing with these bright and eager students," Stumo said.

Stumo was named Paynesville Teacher of the Year in 1980 and Music Educator of the Year on the state level in 1990.

Cheryl Bungum, high school choral teacher, estimated Stumo has taught more than 3,000 students in her 28 years of teaching in Paynesville.

"I want to thank all of the wonderful people I have worked with throughout the years. The music programs have been a highlight for the students and myself. We could not have done them without the help and cooperation we received from secretaries, cooks, custodians, staff, and administrative personnel in all buildings," Stumo said.

"I kept telling my students that when anything goes wrong during a program, flash the audience a big smile and keep going," she added.

"The Paynesville community has been a great place to live and raise our son, Karl. The community has been simply outstanding in their support of the music programs. I am looking forward to spending more time with my family in the future. My future also includes hiking, biking, travel, and being a substitute teacher so I will continue to see the students on a regular basis," Stumo stressed.

Rita Holm will give up her first grade classroom
Holm Rita Holm didn't feel she could put it off any longer. For five years, her husband, Bob, has wanted to spend winters in Arizona. Every March, she would miss the deadline to put in for retirement, claiming forgetfulness, and would teach again the next fall.

This year, she made the deadline, and this will be her last year of teaching after 34 years in the classroom.

She graduated from Litchfield High School and attended St. Benedict's College in St. Joseph back when students wore dresses, hats, and gloves regularly; when they attended church services every day wearing graduation caps; and when you had to ask permission to leave school grounds.

Her first teaching job was kindergarten in Mt. Morris, Mich., a suburb of Flint. After a year there, she taught first grade in New Ulm for ten years. She taught Title I in Paynesville for two years before moving into her first grade classroom in 1978.

Leaving was a difficult decision. "It is all I ever wanted to do," said Rita. She said that she has wanted to be a teacher since she was four years old.

"It's really been the perfect profession for me," she added.

What makes it so special is the students. "It is really fun to be with the kids," said Rita. "They say the cutest things. They say the funniest things. They tell you everything."

Seeing the kids walk through the door each morning is refreshing to her. "It is just so wonderful to see them everyday," she explained.

"Maybe this is a good time to quit," she added, "when you still feel this way."

She'd rather go out too soon rather than too late. She'd rather leave with only good memories.

Other factors, aside from the pull of her husband, influenced her decision to retire. She won't have to adjust to a new principal now, and the district won't need to make cuts in first grade staffing.

Reflecting on her career, Rita said one of the biggest differences was class size. Recently she looked in her lesson book from when she taught in New Ulm. She had 36 students in her class then. This year she has 16. "That's a big difference," she said. "You can do so much more."

"I think the impressive thing about education is how far kids go by the end of first grade," she said. "I'm impressed by that." In reading and writing, the kids are advancing. The curriculum is more and more demanding, and there's more technology to help: e-mail, telephones, computers, televisions, and VCRs.

"You really need to have a lot of materials," she explained. Today's kids are very visual. "You can't just get up and tell them about it."

In retirement, Rita plans to do more golfing, more reading, and more traveling. She wants to spend more time doing things with her family and wants to volunteer for the American Cancer Society because both she and her husband have had cancer. She has bought a sewing machine, and she is looking forward to enjoying the lake next fall and again next spring.

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