Skrypek, a special education teacher, took a leave of absence from 1996-98 to battle breast cancer. On March 27, she took a medical leave from her teaching position after a reoccurrence of breast cancer.
Skrypek joined the convent and became a nun and attended college from 1959 to 1964. She started teaching in 1964 in a private Catholic school in Roseville. Skrypek left the convent in the spring of 1970. She joined the Paynesville staff in 1972 as a supplemental teacher in the elementary school. She taught small groups of students math and reading.
She made the transition to teaching students with learning disabilities in 1974 at the elementary level. In 1979, Skrypek moved to the middle school. "At this level students still have an interest in learning and will listen to you," Skrypek said. "They are an entity all their own."
Skrypek said her philosophy is to teach each child like she would want her own children to be taught. "Each child is a gift. I tried to teach them and have them teach me," she added.
"I have enjoyed my students and hope each child is a better person because of me," Skrypek said. "A person can learn so much from children."
By teaching special education, Skrypek doesn't have the students for just one year and have them move on, she has them for three years. "You really get to know the students," added Skrypek.
Over the years, Skrypek has seen many changes in teaching, but the biggest is the amount of paper work special education teachers are required to complete to meet state and federal regulations.
"The increase in paper work has been phenomenal," Skrypek said. "I do my paper work nights and weekends. When there is a child in the classroom to be taught, I'm there to teach, not do paper work."
According to Skrypek, "Special education teachers are hard workers. They get involved and rise to the occasion to help their students. They are a close knit group and very supportive of each other."
Paynesville has some wonderful kids, Skrypek said. It is not uncommon to hear a please or a thank you. However, Skrypek said the trends of the big city are showing in Paynesville as students have a lack of interest in learning. "It is getting harder to motivate some students," she said.
"For the most part, if you respect students, they will respect you. Give them the dignity they deserve," Skrypek said.
Skrypek loves the concept of PrimeTime in the middle school as it gives the students a chance at inter-mixing with different grade levels. "PrimeTime is a good time for the kids to relax in the middle of the day," she said. During PrimeTime the students sit and talk, clear up issues they might have with school, and the older students work with the younger students. "We work on being a family," she added.
At one time, Skrypek worked with the high school speech team. "They are the same as the middle school kids, only bigger bodies," she said.
The new teachers in the middle school have brought new ideas and a new vibrancy to the staff, Skrypek said. "We have a good staff. It has been fun teaching in the middle school," she added.
By teaching special education, Skrypek gets to know all the teachers. "There is a lot of cooperation between staff members," she added.
During PrimeTime, Skrypek has taught some of her hobbies, such as playing cribbage and decorating bird houses.
In her retirement, Skrypek said she plans on getting her health back and to welcome her first grandchild.
Skrypek also plans on having more time to do her hobbies, which include bird watching, gardening, and playing cards. She describes her backyard as a bird sanctuary. "I can spend hours watching the birds," she added.
She also enjoys singing, volunteer work, water aerobics, and computers.
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