Teachers, staff bid farewell

On Wednesday, May 11, Craig said goodbye to retiring staff members and those who are leaving. In past years, this ceremony has taken place on the last teacher work day of the school year. 

However, Friday, June 3, is the last day for both students and teachers, so the decision was made to hold the farewell ceremony several weeks before the end of the school year.

Leaving for other places and pursuits

Math teacher Jordan Hester is leaving to pursue his MBA at the University of Michigan. In a goodbye presentation, math teachers Betsy Murphy and Erica Jenson read a rhyming poem about a teacher they will miss.

They called Hester “the king of dry wit” and said that he was “the gift that the math department didn’t know they needed.”

In emotional closing remarks, Hester said, “No one has any idea the burden placed on public schools until they have been here. The highs and lows I felt in my bones. My season here has come to an end, but if I had to do it over, I would choose it again and again.”

Another math teacher, Ahlia Dupree, has accepted a position to teach at Parkview High School in Orfordville, Wis. She was called “The true MVP of the PLC” by math teacher Brooks Hagedorn.

“I am a ‘Type B’ personality,” said Hagedorn, labeling herself the kind of person who is unorganized and spontaneous. “But Ms. Dupree is a ‘Type A.’ Her note packs are always ready to go.”

Durpree also directed Academic Decathlon and poms. “Parkview is lucky to have you,” Hagedorn added.

In the English department, Nathan Lynn plans a move to the east coast with his wife to be closer to family. 

He taught mostly senior-level courses and international students. “He stepped in to help the English department with our HLC classes,” said English teacher Amanda Begovatz.

Mark Lajiness, who split his time this between Craig and Rock University High School, will be full-time at Rock U next year. He will continue to direct Craig’s drama guild.

In the world language department, Chinese teacher Serena Powers is leaving. After teaching at Craig for seven years, she accepted a position at Arrowhead High School.

French teacher Sara Shea said Powers is “helpful, friendly” and “always has a smile on her face.”

Powers played a key role in helping Chinese students to transition to America. She known for her jokes and knitting and the funny videos she would send to principal’s secretary Trish Jones. Mrs. Powers is also expecting a baby.

“Serena is unique in the world!” said Shea.

Art teacher Marko Pechnick is leaving for Colorado where he will teach art at the Vail Mountain School.

“When he came here, he acquired 5 moms,” said Maria Kane, referring to the other members of the art department. He graduated from Craig in 2013 and was named an emergent teacher of the year in 2021.

“It was a hard decision to leave this community. Thank you for everything,” he said.

In the special education department, Jeff Horvath is leaving to help to run his family’s business.

“At one time he was a catalog model for Farm and Fleet,” said Kristin Fuchs. Horvath taught and co-taught a variety of math classes and specialized in working with students with behavioral disabilities.

In the social studies department, Andrea Nickel is leaving. She has accepted a teaching job at Bigfoot High School, where her husband also teaches. 

A Parker High School graduate, she taught for 16 years in district, 14 at Craig. She coached swim for 5 years, directed the Russian Club for 8, and assisted with the Cougar Closet for 3.

In the student center, School counselor Tim Riding is moving to Hillsboro, Oregon. “He loves the area,” said principal Dr. Alison Bjoin. Riding will live with four roommates and his pets.

Teachers, staff retiring

Science teacher Kathleen Romanelli will retire at the end of the year. She has taught at Craig for 30 years. In all, she has been an educator for 40 years. 

In his presentation, science teacher Brett Gill marvelled at her longevity and humorously asked, “Girl, what is wrong with you?”

Gill added that Romanelli “has a heart of gold” and that she “sticks up for every kid.”

“She never gives up on her students,” he said.

In her remarks, Romanelli urged her fellow teachers, “Keep loving on those kiddos. You are my extended family and I love you all.”

Computer teacher Janice Bain is also retiring. 

Business teacher Brandon Miles said, “A teacher should be someone who gives students every opportunity to learn and explore. Janice is that.”

He describes how she taught herself programming and different languages. She would stay at school until late hours, “sometimes until midnight or 1 am,” he said. 

Bain has organized homecoming since 2014. Miles called her involvement with MIT programming a success.

“She found a way to give her students the best chance to succeed,” he said.

Long-time paraprofessional Betsy Nelson, Craig’s registrar, is also retiring. 

During her time at Craig, she has supervised study hall, in-school suspension, and the resource room.

Every Craig graduate from the past 20 years knows her. She is the last one to steady their caps–and their nerves–before they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

“She will be spending time in Florida,” said counselor Sara Lehman.

Joyce`Snyder retired in March and was the long-time secretary in attendance. She performed her job with “grace and love and passion,” said assistant principal Shawn Kane.

Longtime coaches retire

Math teacher Blake Budrow has coached volleyball for 31 years. In remarks, athletic director Ben McCormick said that Budrow has been “a huge help in the conference, and “has been awesome.”

Budrow compiled 656 wins as Craig’s coach and received a signed volleyball from the team.

The Cougars won or finished second in the Big 8 conference 11 times. Budrow coached 30 first-team all conference players, 3 conference players of the year, and 2 all-state players.

He was also 2016 Big 8 coach of the year.

Retiring hockey coach John Mauermann led the Bluebirds to three state tournament appearances.