From the Courier
Wednesday, June 6, 2007 4:01 PM CDT
Lincoln teacher retires after 43 years
By Sue Willett
After 43 years of teaching, Rita Congdon, fifth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, is hanging up her hat. And throughout her many years of teaching, she has worn many.
Rita represents the past, present and future of Lincoln, said Principal Deb Beving.
She has contributed so much to our school and to our community,"
Described by her colleagues as child-centered, enthusiastic, funny and an expert in Iowa history, Congdon is known as one who always looks on the bright side of everything.
I anticipate that Rita won't just walk away from Lincoln School,"
Beving said. "
I'm sure that she will come back and volunteer at Lincoln in the future. She's so community minded."
Congdon has family ties that go way back in the history of Lincoln. Her mother attended the original Lincoln School, making the transition to the "
1924 building in seventh grade. Lincoln was K-8 at that time. Her mother-in-law taught at Lincoln full time and as a substitute. Both Rita and her husband, Richard, attended Lincoln, and two of their children and three grandchildren have attended the school.
The many hats that Congdon has worn at Lincoln include coordinating the activities for the Partners in Education program, producing the annual variety show, sponsoring student council and coordinating the popular fifth-grade log home project, which is shared with the community.
Rita is dedicated to community service and helping students learn the importance of community service,"
Beving said. "
She also coordinates our food and toy drives every year."
Colleague Sue Haren said when she first began teaching at Lincoln, Congdon greeted her with open arms.
She came up to me and gave me a big hug,"
she said, "
I felt welcome right from the beginning.
By teaching with Rita, I have noticed that she has a very strong relationship with her students, in part due to her quick-witted humor,"
Haren said. "
She knows just what to say at just the right time."
Her enthusiasm for teaching is amazing,"
said Lincoln school nurse Karen Steffens.
Teaching beside Rita, one of my good friends, was a special gift,"
said retired colleague Linda Bohr. "
She was a joy to teach with, and those of us on third floor had a great time. Every day brought a laugh or two. Our motto was true, 'We's nuts, but we's happy!' Now, it's time she joins me in retirement and some well-deserved rest. We'll be busy with the historical society in a variety of ways, and other volunteer work, but the pressure will be lifted. We're on to new and exciting adventures."
Growing up just two blocks from Lincoln, Congdon was inspired to become a teacher by her neighbor and third-grade teacher, Mrs. Holiday.
When I was in third grade, I wanted to grow up and be a teacher just like her,"
Congdon said. "
She was young, pretty, funny and strict. I adored her. She just lived two houses away from me. My mother would have to limit the time that I spent over at her house so that I didn't bother her too much."
Congdon began her teaching career in 1964 at Lincoln.
I had three job offers in three towns, but I had always dreamed of teaching at Lincoln,"
she said. "
It was an easy decision to make."
I was so anxious to start my teaching career, and then school started and the school was so crowded! I taught fourth grade, and there were five sections. Each of us had 37 or 38 students. Being a new teacher, I was full of great ideas and expectations and was surprised when things did not go as planned in my head. I did not like teaching. My mentor, Miss Van Dorn, took me aside and assured me that all new teachers feel that way and that things would get better. By March, I was beginning to think that maybe this job was going to be all right, and by May I was anxious to sign on for another year."
She fell into a half-time teaching position when her own children entered kindergarten.
It was wonderful. I had the best of both worlds,"
she said. "
I could be home with my kids and also teaching. It was the perfect job. When they were seniors, I went back full time.
I taught third through sixth grade, but fifth grade is my favorite. I have loved teaching, because I love the kids, and I am a kid at heart. I never grew up. I fit into a fifth-grade classroom situation. I like the 10- and 11-year-olds, because they are not little kids, and they are becoming sophisticated. They know a lot and can handle the responsibility of discussing some pretty adult topics. Besides, they tutor me in the electronics in my room.
Her most memorable year was the year she had a wheelchair-bound student.
The kids were so willing to help that they almost fought over it,"
she said. "
We had to come up with a schedule to determine who would push."
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