Teachers and school workers are an extremely important part of our lives. They not only educate us on our history, teach us much needed math skills, get us excited in the exploration of science, and ingrain in us the proper way to speak and write, but they also help shape us into the adults and leaders we are today. We entrust our children to them year after year and rely on them to keep them in line when not in our care. We owe our educators and staff members for so much. This year, there are several Atchison County educators who are retiring after more than 20 years of service to our children in our local schools. It is with great pleasure that we highlight these people and their careers:
Janene McEnaney School Nurse
One of those retiring is Janene McEnaney, Tarkio R-I School Nurse. To say Janene will be greatly missed is an understatement. Her contributions to the welfare of the children of Tarkio over the past 29 years are immense and when one thinks back to their time spent at Tarkio R-I, inevitably several of those memories include being doctored by Janene or of her smile, hugs, and happy demeanor, or her beautiful singing around the Christmas tree. Janene was made for that job, one that requires extreme patience for all the little hypochondriacs just trying to skip class, the ones who are already vomiting by the time they get to her office, the ones who need a change of clothing, or the ones who had an accident on the playground and need a place to cry and hurt in peace until their parents can come pick them up to take them to the doctor. She took every one of those children under her wing and gave them her love and attention. And it wasn’t just those children she was nice to. You could not pass “Miss Mac” in the hallway without receiving a smile and a warm “hello.” There will never be another Janene McEnaney ,School Nurse.
Janene said she decided to become a nurse “after finishing high school. I attended the LPN Program, which at that time was on the campus of Northwest Missouri State University. I didn’t specifically decide to be a school nurse until Jean Watkins retired. I was working at the nursing home in Tarkio and a coworker Tammy Grossman told me about the opening, so I decided to apply. I was fortunate to be hired for the school nurse position in the fall of 1989. I was very happy to get this position as our son, David, was two and I was pregnant with our oldest daughter, Rachel. Being able to have hours Monday through Friday, holidays, and summers with my children was such a blessing. In 1989, Tarkio R-I had 460 students in K-12. I remember wondering how I would ever remember everyone’s names, let alone how everyone is connected. Now in 2018, I have more trouble knowing too many names and calling students’ their sibling’s names and even their parents’ names instead of their own. The kids are pretty forgiving when I call them the wrong name.”
Obviously, Janene has seen many changes over those 29 years. She said, “When I started, what we considered a traditional family (mom, dad, siblings) was the norm. Now that traditional family type is not as common as it once was. We don’t have as much trouble with head lice as we once did, but now bedbugs are sweeping the nation. I have more allergy type issues, whether it be with a food, environmental things or insects. Illnesses seem to be year round now too. There was a time we really didn’t have as much illness in the fall, now it starts as soon as the kids come to school. Of course the technology has changed a great deal in 29 years. I used to make trips up and down the hall to find kids, and talk to teachers. Now we send an email, or call on the phone to the rooms. No worries though, I still get in plenty of steps. We watch our elementary kids do morning announcements on YouTube, or the music concert being streamed online. There is always injuries, medicines, immunizations and charting that happens. But the last few years the State has conducted some really great webinars for school nurses on many school health issues. I have enjoyed taking part in them and getting some great information without having to be gone from school. I also love that Missouri has a database that I can check Missouri students’ immunizations; it sure makes it easier to get their records now as compared to when I started in 1989.”
“The preschool wasn’t always here, I loved that addition! It is so fun to watch those 3 and 4 year olds learn, grow and develop eventually into 18 year olds ready to make their way in the world. The addition of the library, computer lab (innovation room) and special education department at the elementary was such a blessing. I loved the Barney purple that they painted the library, and there is so much room compared to the old one that is now a third grade classroom. The addition of air conditioning – not much to say about that except ‘Yes!’”
When asked why she chose to stay at Tarkio R-I, she remarked, “I stayed at Tarkio because I loved my job, it worked well for my family, and I have had the pleasure of working with some of the finest educators and staff possible. Not to mention, I also got to watch children grow up into young adults. Teachers get new students every year. I have had some children all 15 years, when they start in preschool and then finish high school.”
Everyone has memorable moments that stick out in their mind when thinking back on a long-term career. Janene’s include:
“One day I will never forget was when I was pregnant with my second daughter, and didn’t think I would be coming back to school the next day. I thought I should let Principal John Wilcox know that my time was coming near. John was always so calm and cool in all situations. When I told him, he got a little excited and wanted to know what we needed to do, right now! He was so sweet and I got tickled to see him get concerned about why I was still at school.”
“I like to give MaryBeth, our secretary, a hard time. We had a cut-out of a life sized man that was called Mr. Earl. I positioned him in the room that she would enter when she came early in the morning. I believe he startled her a little bit – lucky she had recovered by the time I came to school. Some of my favorite memories while at school include singing around the Christmas tree, our many MAP/GLE skits that involved Thriller dance, Star Wars light sabers, a line dance, and The Wizard of Oz, to name a few. I also have thoroughly enjoyed our staff outings to the Orpheum in Omaha. We have seen some fabulous musicals, and enjoyed our time together, outside of the school building.”
As for memories with the kids – most days are an adventure as you never know what will happen. Most days I am happy to say I could leave work chuckling about something that was said ‘out of mouths of babes’ or some situation that had occurred. But it’s kind of like Vegas – what happens in the nurse’s office, stays in the nurse’s office.”
One special thing about Janene is that she was not just the school nurse. She involved herself in a variety of activities over the years, including the Coat Drive with Hy-Vee; Back Pack Buddies; CPR for lifeguards/staff/Parents as Teachers; Body Walk through the Extension; Fluoride treatments (which used to be daily and now twice a year with fluoride varnish); a walk where the kids logged their miles; Project Fit Grant for the equipment; Community Awareness Team (CAT) in which the group members put on carnivals, prom dinners, and other activities for the kids; Delta Dental Program; Wellness Coordinator – activities for the staff and students; many different educational classes; and Lions Club hearing van and Lions Club Amblyopia Screening Coordinator. Janene also helped write a grant to get the milk machine in 2004 at the high school, and now she stocks it twice a week. She’s also the official “Weather Girl” for Tarkio Elementary – “I have the power to cancel recess.”
Janene’s been a very busy lady the past two decades, but though the activities will change, she’ll still be active. She’ll now be able to spend more time with her family, including husband Leonard, son and daughter-in-law David and Megan McEnaney and their children Jack, Tate, and Emme, daughter and son-in-law Rachel and Jay Stanton and children Cass and Collin, and daughter Denise McEnaney. She also plans to enjoy reading, practicing her music, and trying some new things that she hasn’t had time to try.
Janene offered up some advice to the next school nurse, “Don’t panic, you will eventually learn everyone’s names and family connections. Sometimes they really just need someone to listen. Never run out of ice packs or peppermints. Smile and laugh a lot! Love your administration and staff – you won’t meet a better group of people. And make sure you are kind to the secretaries, they are priceless.”
Cherie Heits works in the special education department at Tarkio R-I. Following receiving her Bachelor’s of Art Degree from Tarkio College in 1983 and her Special Education Certificate in 1996 from Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Cherie began at Burlington Junction, Missouri, working in the elementary special education department. After two years, she stepped into the hallways and classrooms of Tarkio R-I as a special education teacher and has been here for 21 years.
Cherie said her inspiration for teaching came from her mother, Mary Kay Hixson. “My mom taught special education for 30 years and was my inspiration for wanting to make a difference as a special education teacher.”
The 21 years flew by and Cherie and her husband, Mike, raised their children, Bryan (Blythe) Heits, Brad (Sonya) Heits, and Mallory (Keaton) Hawkins here. Cherie said it was so wonderful to not only see her own children growing up and attending Tarkio R-I, but to also see her own students grow and become successful. Tarkio has always been known to have one of the best special education programs in the area, if not the state, and accommodates many students, both in the elementary and high school. Tarkio was always home to Cherie and she will cherish her time spent at Tarkio R-I.
When asked about her plans for retirement, Cherie joked that her husband thinks she’ll be helping to farm. When not farming, she plans on substitute teaching and spending time with her children and grandchildren, including Madelynn Heits, 9, Emma Jackson, 9, Maddox Heits, 8, Ivy Heits, 7, Hayden Jackson, 7, Bryce Heits, 3, Gracie Jackson, 3, and one on the way.
Hope Vette Teacher & Coach 30 Years
Hope Vette is a teacher who is well-known across the county, having taught in both Tarkio and Rock Port schools for a total of 30 years. She was also a much-loved coach.
Hope is known for her love of sports (Go KC Chiefs and Royals!) and brought her talents of explaining concepts not only to the court, but also to the classroom. She was a fun teacher who used special activities and incentives to get her students to learn. She created a toy store in her classroom to teach her students how to count money and hone their math skills. She hosted sport outings, extra recess, and even a talent show to get her students to reach goals and get excited about learning. There were movies watched at the end of a book reading assignment or just for fun and Weekly Reader discussions to keep the students up-to-date on news and how it affected them.
Though Mrs. Vette was clearly made for the teacher and coach role, she almost went in a different direction. “Growing up I loved animals and thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. My junior year in high school, I was a cadet teacher for Nan Stepp and that changed my mind to being a teacher. I thought I’d be a P.E. teacher and a coach (I chalk that decision up to ROLO – Dean Rolofson!!) I had great role models while in high school in my principal, Doug Henry, and John Wilcox (even though Mr. Wilcox kicked me out of high school for 2 days, but later hired me for my first teaching job in second grade at Tarkio Elementary.) Once the decision was made, Hope attended Northwest Missouri State University, where she earned a BS in Elementary Education and a BS in Physical Education with a coaching minor.
She taught 19 years in the Tarkio R-I School District, teaching 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades and K-12 P.E. She also coached junior high girls’ basketball and track for 19 years at Tarkio. She then taught 2nd grade for 11 years in the Rock Port R-II School District, where she’ll be retiring this May.
Though she couldn’t choose a most memorable moment, she did say she’d like to think there were a few good junior high girls’ teams in that span of 19 years. And there were. Many of those 19 years included Hope coaching undefeated teams and teams who won 275 Conference championships.
Though she’s hanging up her teaching and coaching hat, she won’t be sitting idle. She remarked that her husband, Mike, says “I have to clean closets and get rid of a ton of stuff!! (so be looking on swap shop!!) Actually, I’d like to go do all the fun stuff my neighbor, Billie Schneider, does!!” She’ll also be spending time with Mike and her daughters, her oldest Hanna, and her youngest Makayla.
and Para 23 Years
Last to be featured, but certainly not least, is Fairfax R-3’s Paraprofessional Vickie Simmons. Vickie spent one year in the early childhood classroom before moving into the para position for Elementary Special Education. Vickie said she chose to work at Fairfax R-3 because her own kids were in school and it was a way to be involved with them, as well as working with other children.
It’s been a memorable 23 years. Vickie was known as Fairfax R-3’s “Tooth Fairy” because the children with loose teeth would always seek her out to pull them. She, as an avid reader, was pleased to be able to participate in the 3rd-6th grade Dr. Seuss Reading Competition. Vickie was also the Box Tops Co-Coordinator. Vickie was not only loved by her students, but by her co-workers and peers, and was named the NWR/MSTA Outstanding Associate of the Year in 2014.
Vickie will be looking forward to spending time with her family in retirement. They include her husband, Ted, children Aaron (Bambi) Simmons, Cole Simmons, Troy Simmons, and Michaela Krueger, and grandchildren Kinley, Rylie, and Brooks.
We as students, co-workers, and community members were very lucky to have these people in our lives and we congratulate them on their retirement and wish them the best!