Saying Goodbye: Craig bids farewell to respected staff members

Mr. Phillips gets emotional at the appreciation from staff.

On Wednesday, May 17, Craig’s staff held its annual end-of-the-year program.

At this extended meeting, colleagues give send offs to staff members who are leaving Craig due to retirement or resignation.

This year’s program was especially emotional due to the retirement of Mr. Monte Phillips, assistant principal. 

He is one of seven Craig staff members who are retiring. 

In addition, eight teachers are resigning. 

The list of retirees is headed by Mr. Phillips, who will officially retire from the School District of Janesville on  June 30. 

He has been an educator for 41 years . For 25 of those years, he served as one of Craig’s assistant principals and will be remembered by thousands of students.

The tribute to Mr. Phillips was given personally by his longtime coworker and friend assistant principal Shawn Kane. He shared both the personal impact they have had on one another and the importance Phillips played in his life. 

Kane shared stories about Mr. Phillips’ “open door” policy. 

“Literally, he kept his door open when he was at his desk. If she ever needed anything, (guidance secretary) Mary (Severin) would just yell ‘Hey Monte’ out of the open window next to her desk.”

 Kane further shared that he saw Philips as a role model both personally and professionally, setting a high standard for being a friend, teacher, father, and husband. 

Philips has been a life saver, literally, to students. Only a few years ago he had administered CPR to a student who had collapsed in the gym, saving his life. 

Furthermore, he was supportive of others during times of great loss. 

This was achieved by his calm demeanor, grace under pressure, and integrity. 

Kane finished off with listing the top 11 reasons to love Phillips.

These included his open door policy, his “humility and heart of gold,” his work ethic and integrity. 

Others were his overcommitment to arriving before any other staff member, his calm demeanor, his sense of humor, his “constant, unwavering commitment to the school and district,” the radio calls for Monte, his  ability as an exemplary educator, his mentorship, his ability to pinch hit, and his nickname of “Mr. Craig” and “Our Monte.”

Joining Mr. Phillips in retirement is school counselor Sherri Rudkin.

She has been in education for 32 years, 26 of which were at Craig. She has acted as the ACT organizer for Craig in the past.

She was a respected counselor who guided many students. 

Mr. Holmquist said that she was “Always someone who was easy to work with and someone who focused on student success.” 

She experienced burnout in her previous role as a speech and language pathologist. When she became a counselor, she learned to love work again, and her decision to retire was difficult.

Debra O’Leary is another retiree. It was a tough decision for her to retire because she was a friend to students. 

She was always someone easy to talk to, and she left a big impact on many kids. 

O’leary taught the “Exploring Business and Marketing” course and really kept the business education department alive and popular among students. 

Mrs. Engh considers her not only one of the nicest teachers in the building but “one of the nicest people ever.” She has been an inspiration to many because of her kindness. 

Rick Stephenson was a custodian and someone known for his upbeat personality and selfless commitment to fostering an environment where students could prosper. 

Mrs. Kristi O’brien Shoof sent him off with a personal story, having gotten to know him when she was an ISS and restricted lunch supervisor. 

She described him as a wonderful storyteller who shared stories of his youthful hijinks, and a true man of character. He selflessly cooked SWS thanksgiving meals along with spring cookouts. 

These actions, among many, only showcase his altruistic nature and how positively impactful has been with the students of Craig High School. 

Tom Ulrich was a social studies teacher here at Craig who has been teaching for well over 40 years, and has been a mainstay of Craig High School culture. He is well known and beloved by many students for his fun and gregarious personality.

Sometimes in the mornings he would stop by the Craig Criterion work area in the library, having insightful conversations with our editors. 

Students loved his stories from his youth (ask him about Woodstock) are colorful and always insightful. 

He is full of great advice and makes an amazing mentor to all of his students. 

Kay Butterfield was also a social studies teacher at Craig from 2003. 

She has taught a multitude of classes such as AP government, global studies, US history, humanties A and humanities B. 

She additionally advised National Honor Society, managed charitable collections for various organizations, and participated in sports. 

Mrs. Herbst said she will “miss her voice in the hallway and miss laugh filled lunches.” 

After retiring from Craig, Butterfield will embark on a career in real estate.

Several teachers are resigning for new opportunities.

Abby Meyer is resigning as a teacher of students with intellectual disabilities. She has been here at Craig for 4 years, starting off with a difficult first year and adapting to her new job. She will be staying at home to become a stay-at-home-mom.

Amanda Walker Wagner, teacher of students with intellectual disabilities, has worked at J. Craig High School for 4 years and has always taught in ID.  Walker started her first year here along with Abby. She has quite a few stories from working at Craig, for example, the story on how she had to chase down a kid who was running in the snow. 

Walker is leaving education and is going to be a community support coordinator for adults with disabilities. 

Kristi Ruggles, English teacher at J. Craig High School will be resigning this school year. She was remembered by colleague Amanda Begovatz as “not only an amazing teacher but an amazing person.” 

Ruggles is alway full of incredible ideas, her brain always coming up with something new. 

Begovatz said, “It comes to no surprise to see her rise through the district, serving on committees. Kristi Ruggles has such a huge presence, and will always be a great person to ramble on about life and motherhood.”

As of now, Ruggles does not have a teaching job next yer. 

She and her family will move to Amherst, Wis. where her husband will be the next superintendent of the school district in Amherst.

Dawn Cox was a Spanish teacher at Craig. She could be described as a super emotional human and she shared some parting words to her colleagues. 

She very much enjoyed her time as at Craig and as part of the CHS family. She thanks Mrs. Jones for being the shining light of the building, Mrs. Osmond for years for friendship, Mr. Herbst for coaching her son’s baseball team to win state in 2015, and Mrs. Pumilia for all of her help and patience. 

She will be resigning to work at JC Heating and Cooling with her husband. 

Kylie Campion is parting ways with Craig Highschool. Campion teaches Math at CHS but will be leaving to travel abroad. We wish her the best. 

Erin O’Leary worked as a business ED teacher, teaching business co-op and accounting 1. O’leary is a quiet person, very organized. Her classes, despite being serious, were always enjoyable. 

She will now be moving into the office of the  district level work-based youth coordinator for youth apprenticeship. O’leary will still be working with Craig Highscool, Parker High School, and Charter school in placing students into jobs and apprenticeships to develop real world experience.

Brooke Hagedorn has taught math for 6 years at Craig. She considers her “top four” experiences at Craig to be tennis (both playing and coaching), the knit group she’s in with a few other teachers, being able to teach a wide variety of subjects, and being able to get lunch on PD days at “Room 99,” also known as the Park Place.  

Miss Hagedorn has come to a decision of taking a break and parting ways with her teaching job and will be off traveling with her fiance. 

Jeff Bachinski, tech ed teacher, will be nearing retirement soon. 

His plan is to go teach at Lakeland High School in Minocqua where he has a cabin. 

Jeff Bachinski is an incredible helper having helped the FFA, the art department, and in maintenance. 

Bachinski is grateful for being able to be a teacher at Craig High School and form many relationships with other teachers and students. He said,“Craig is a great place. Great teachers, great kids.”

In addition to recognizing Craig’s retirees and resignations, the meeting also honored those staff members who have reached milestones in their years of service:

20 years of service: Kay Butterfield, Sarah Lehman, Beth Metcalf, Sarah Shea, Pete Stuckey

25 years of service: Michelle Costello, Cristal Lippincott, Niki Shucha 

30 years of service: Judy Crook, Laura Hanthorn, Vic Herbst, Mark Mullen, Trevor Steinke