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Friday, May 6, 2016

Two teachers retire, leaving behind 65 years of experience

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mike Norris, Carolyn Lessmeier sad to leave the kids, glad for the many memories

Two teachers have opted for the early retirement package presented to them by the school board. The district will lose a combined 65 years of experience.

Retiring with 31 years experience is Mike Norris, coach and high school physical education teacher and Carolyn Lessmeier with 34 years at the Alta Elementary.

Norris has truly loved teaching at the Alta. School and has over the past 31 years had the opportunity to watch so many kids grow up. He has served as a coach on the junior level as well as the high school level and has relished the idea of bringing out the greatest potential of each young athlete that has called him "coach."

He and wife Diane, who has been a teacher at the Storm Lake Middle School for the past 21 years, will be moving to Altoona close to their children (and grandchild). Altoona is also his hometown.

Diane has taken a job in the Des Moines School District; Mike is looking for direction from above on what his next adventure will be.

"The school is not bricks and mortar it is hearts and minds. It's all about the kids," he commented. It's a special profession."

In addition, Norris also served as an assistant coach at Buena Vista University for 10 years and

has been active in the community. He was responsible for obtaining the "Trees Forever" grants that have allowed for trees to be planted throughout the city. He has been an elected member of the Alta. Park Board and is the manager of the baseball complex and is quite proud of it. Seeing the fields in use nearly every night of the summer is a great feeling. With the help of others, the complex is kept groomed to perfection and he organized the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization that has always been a popular organization for high school'ers at Alta to be a part of.

The couple have also been active members of Summit Evangelical; they are finding it difficult to be leaving their church family.

Norris is a cancer survivor and through his faith, has given numerous inspirational speeches throughout the state about his trials and tribulations and how life takes on a whole new meaning when you go through something so life-threatening.

"The school and the church and the city have afforded me the opportunity to use the gifts God has given me. I've had the opportunity to use those gifts where I live, work and worship. And that's important to me," he said.

There are many, many memories and great friendships that have come out of the past 31 years. "Those are things you have built up in the 31 years that won't change just cause you have a new address."

He is sure that he and his wife will continue to come back to Alta. for many celebrations in the lives of those friends and former students. Technology will allow the correspondence to take place with so many people.

"I don't want there to be goodbyes or some goofy memory of me in the gym. I want there to be more perspective," he said. He will share a special gift and message with each of the students before he leaves.

"This was awesome," he said of his career at Alta. High School. "It was a great ride."

Their children - Meg and Michael (and their daughter-in-law Jess Braunschweig) - were all educate din the Alta. Schools and also now live in the Des Moines area.

Lessmeier came to the Alta. School District in the fall of 1973 where she accepted a fifth-sixth grade position. The following year, a position in the second grade classroom came available which she took and has been at ever since.

She enjoys the children at this age immensely.

"I love watching a child when he or she 'gets it' with any skill we are working on whether it comes quickly for them or it takes extra work. the excitement and enthusiasm for learning and life is such a blessing with this age group."

She has been there for hundreds of children through those years and has enjoyed them all.

"I enjoyed the challenge of finding out what worked for the children to get them really connected to learning and to build the love for learning. They all have their own individual challenges."

She has many second generation students in her classes and that is always fun for her.

"I have seen former students grow to become respected professionals and productive community members. It's great to see that I had a small part in their futures."

She also praises her coworkers and administrators.

"I have experienced many things during this time. The experienced educators who were here when I was hired have been succeeded by enthusiastic new teachers who in turn are becoming mentors themselves. It was truly a blessing to work with so many excellent administrators, teachers, staff, students and families."

She thanks the community and the families of Alta. for the opportunity to teach the children of Alta. She stresses to them that even though she will no longer be a full-time teacher, she plans to remain active in the community and the schools.

Among her favorite memories will be the Partners in Excellence partners her classroom has been with (Jean Kristensen's Salon, Cone Auctions,Heritage Bank), various plays they performed, their version of the circus, field days and field trips and the one time only second grade class school sleep over!

There have been many volunteers in her classroom as well - most recently Ila Mahr and Joyce Sandine - who have provided so much for the students.

Lessmeier is also doing some soul searching to find out where her talents can be the most useful. She is not ready to retire yet, she said, infact, she said, "I don't think of it as retirement - just moving on."

She concluded, "I am really going to miss the children but know there is something new, challenging and exciting waiting for me as this chapter of my life closes and a new one begins. I have so enjoyed these last few months with this class and was happy to focus on this time and will explore new avenues when this chapter ends."

Lessmeier and her husband, Jeff, have two sons - Jason (wife Christine) in Springfield, Mo., and Kyle who resides in Alta.

The staff at the elementary school ask that cards and best wishes be sent to Lessmeier, c/o of the Alta Elementary School, 1009 Main St., Alta, Iowa 51002.

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