Profiles will wrap up on Friday prior to retirement celebration at Eagles.

    Note to readers: Several longtime teachers and staff in Independent School District 593 have recently retired or are retiring at the end of the current school year. The Times has attempted to reach out to all of them in order to feature profiles of each retiree in the newspaper leading up to Friday evening’s celebration honoring the retirees at the Eagles in Crookston. Starting today, Wednesday, and continuing through Friday, the Times will publish information by those who have responded. Today, retiring elementary teacher Penny Blokzyl and retiring special education teacher and speech pathologist Helen Murphy are featured.

Penny Blokzyl
    I've been teaching for 39 years - all of them in Crookston.

    For 38 of them I taught 2nd graders and one year I taught 3rd graders. So the year I taught 3rd grade I had some of the same kids as I did the year before.  That was cool.
Most Memorable
    There is no one thing that comes to mind.  One of the most memorable is the first day of school each year. It is so exciting.  It is a new beginning every year with new kids, new challenges, new rewards and a new chance to do better than the last year. I got to begin my first year at Eugene Field in Sampson Edition.  I loved that school.  Then I got to start many years at Washington and the last few years I started my years at Highland.   I have enjoyed “my” kids and their families and my co-workers.  My co-workers were so supportive when Kenny was sick and after he died.  They don’t know how much that meant to me.  The next three years that I was involved with the Reading First grant was probably the most challenging.  It was a big change and I don’t do change so well.  It taught me a lot about teaching reading, though.  

    Show the kids that you care about them by treating them with respect, be honest and have high standards for them because you believe in them.  Use humor in what you do- kids love that.  Cooperate, collaborate and learn from your co-workers.

    I plan to travel.  In June I’m going on a Mystery Tour.  We don’t know where we are going.  My dream trips, to come in retirement, are to go to Australia and to cruise through the Panama Canal.  I plan to stay in Crookston.  I need to get my yard back in shape after it was all dug up last summer.

Helen Murphy
    I have worked for the Crookston Public School for 24 years. I started out as the Early Childhood Special Education teacher at Lincoln School in l989.  I continued in this position but it grew into a combination job when I also taught Kindergarten half days. This was a challenge so I was thankful for my 10 years of experience teaching Kindergarten in ND before coming to Crookston. I taught Kindergarten full time for two years and then went back to teaching Early Childhood Special Education full time. I replaced Jim Hagen when he retired as the Speech Pathologist at Highland 7 years ago. I have also been the speech pathologist at the high school the last several years.

    My most memorable experience was teaching during the l997 flood.  We all had new students in our class for the last month of school. It was the night of the teacher's retirement party that the Kennedy bridge connecting MN and ND was closed. My husband called me at the party and told me to leave immediately because they were closing the bridge shortly. I  had to drive through water on University Ave to get through Grand Forks because my normal route on Gateway Drive was already impassable. I was relieved to get through Grand Forks and on my way back to Larimore. ND. I also had Grand Forks family members staying with us in Larimore. The next week, I had to go through Fargo to get to Crookston when the roads/bridges through Grand Forks were closed. This was a one way trip of 217 miles.             

Thankfully I was able to stay for a week  with Naomi  Johnshoy, who was a foster grandma at Lincoln School or I would have been sleeping in the lounge or my car. I drove 70 miles one way from Larimore to Crookston for 17 years but after driving 217, it seemed doable. The trip to and from EGF the last 7 years seemed like a piece of cake. I estimate that I have driven over 500,000 miles for the privilege to teach in Crookston. Obviously I liked my job.

    I would like to tell my replacement to use music when possible because it is a universal language. Not only can students work on language concepts and improve their articulation errors with songs, it also can improve one's outlook and attitude. It is especially beneficial to autistic students and those who are multi-handicapped. I know it always helped me feel better.

    In retirement, I hope to have the time and energy to travel and visit my family and friends-especially my two grandchildren in Minneapolis. I also hope to do more reading, exercise more and try some of the recipes I have been cutting out of magazines and the newspaper for years. I also think it would be fun to visit some children in preschools/daycares and hospitals to sing some songs and spread a little sunshine. I am hoping that spending some time with children will help me stay young-or at least feel

    I would like to thank all of my coworkers for their friendship and support-especially the special education  para professionals who work so hard and care so much. I would like to thank the parents of my students who have attended IEP meetings  and conferences and given that extra attention to their children when they  needed it.

    Last but most important, I would like to thank my former students. After all, without them I would not  have had a job or an income.  I really did love them all. They made the long hours and paperwork worth it.  My classroom motto was "make it a happy day." I know they made my days happy and gave me many good  memories I can reflect on during my retirement.