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These elementary educators share 314 years of experience, and gratitude.

Kilbourn TeachersTeacher Appreciation Week spans several days in May, yet a teacher’s impact can last a lifetime. Nationally, the average length of service for one teacher at one school is eight years.  

The numbers look different at Byron Kilbourn Elementary School, a K3-5 school on Milwaukee’s northwest side. Eleven Kilbourn teachers have more than 300 years of combined teaching experience, most of this accumulated at Kilbourn.  

Sharon Redel and Sherise Randolph are K3 Head Start teachers with 64 years of experience between them, 50 at Kilbourn. They know how to help 3-year-old students develop pre-literacy skills, practice letter and number recognition, and make the transition to full-day school so they are ready for K4. 

They also know the neighborhood, their students’ families, and who they can rely on through decades of teaching.  

“Each other,” says Redel, with 37 years’ teaching experience. “Ms. Randolph and I plan together, during students’ rest time.” 

“We come together for kids every day and that’s all that matters,” says Randolph, who has been teaching 27 years. “We’re not perfect but we’re all here together.” 

“Just like a family!” adds another Kilbourn colleague. 

Ask any of the school's veteran teachers what brings them back to Kilbourn year after year, decade after decade, and they say the same thing — even when they’re not crowded in one room for a recent Teacher Appreciation Week photo. 

“Commitment to education, to this school, to this community,” says 4th-grade teacher Stephanie Baade, with 33 years’ experience. “We want to be at this school, in this neighborhood, serving not just students but multiple generations of families.”  

“We are a staff committed to students and each other, and we get along really well,” adds Redel, who also attributes her teaching tenure to being a proud Milwaukee Public Schools graduate and a longtime member and leader of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association. 

Jason Galien grew up in the nearby Westlawn public housing project. He won a third-grade reading challenge as a Kilbourn student in the 1970s (he read 22 books and won a softball). Now he is Principal Galien.  

“I feel so secure knowing that I’m around folks who understand the dynamic of children, who understand the craft of teaching,” he says. 

Rozlind Davis has “only” 32 years at Kilbourn, where she’s the parent coordinator. Before that, she volunteered for two years at the school she and her two oldest daughters all attended.  

“Everybody was so welcoming to me then,” she says. “Now, I tell new parents how welcoming we are. Everybody is important at Kilbourn: students, staff, families.” 

The K3-5 school serves many families from its surrounding neighborhood. 

“Graduates love coming back here,” says Baade. “It is good for the soul to see students’ success later in life. It means a lot.”   

After 30.7 years at Kilbourn, second-grade teacher Christine LaMarre is set to retire.  

Friendships with Kilbourn colleagues have been a constant, she says. Creating classroom routines and sharing a love for reading while teaching students how to read are standout strategies. Favorite classroom books include “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein, and the “Goosebumps” series, by R.L. Stine. 

“It’s fun to teach children how to express feelings while they’re reading,” LaMarre says. “It really helps them learn.”  

Alida Harris is the “new” veteran teacher in the building, with 20 years in MPS and one year at Kilbourn. She assigned a planting project to her 1st and 2nd graders. What happened next was science, and Kilbourn, in action. 

“After one week, nothing was growing. ‘Science is like that. Science doesn’t always work out and you’ve got to keep trying,’ is what I told my students.” 

A Kilbourn colleague stepped in, suggesting sunflower seeds instead of beans. It worked. 

Galien says he appreciates teachers’ dedication to tried and true teaching practices, as well as their openness to new ways of teaching. 

“They are early adopters,” he says. 

After five years at Kilbourn and 24 in MPS, 5th-grade teacher Anthony McDaniels is learning Project Lead The Way (PLTW) STEM curriculum. The school opens a pilot PLTW lab in fall 2024.  

“Kids do very well with hands-on learning,” he explains. “Many schools are trying to integrate STEM because this enhances a student’s chance of succeeding.” 

Sherita Kostuck relies more on pencil and paper than technology in her K5 classroom. After 34 years at Kilbourn, she describes herself as a “stickler for printing.”  

“I don’t think successful strategies wear out,” Kostuck says.  

Relationship-building is another reliable strategy in her teaching toolbox. 

“The secret to my tenure is the relationships I have with my students and their parents, past and present,” Kostuck says. “The relationships we have here at Kilbourn with our staff are just like an extended family. We support each other not only at school, but we have relationships away from school, as well.” 

During Teacher Appreciation Week, school support teacher Tiffany Dupree-Cain, 28 years with MPS and three at Kilbourn, asked colleagues about the best way to celebrate, and be celebrated. 

She summarized their timeless advice on one tiny pink sticky note: “Ultimately, teachers want to be valued, appreciated, heard, and supported!”  

Photo: Back row, left to right: Anthony McDaniels, 24 years; Sherita Kostuck, 34 years; Stephanie Baade, 33 years; Rozlind Davis, 34 years; Christine LaMarre, 30.7 years; Alida Harris, 20 years; Principal Jason Galien. Front row, left to right: Sharon Redel, 37 years; Sherise Randolph, 27 years; Tiffany Dupree-Cain, 28 years; Kathleen Bruesewitz, 25 years. Not pictured: Mark Schmidt, 22 years 

 

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