LANSING | A 38-year career in education will come to end later this month when Linda Blomquist retires as principal of Coolidge Elementary School.
Blomquist has served eight of her 38 years in Lansing Elementary School District 158, having been an assistant principal at Memorial Junior High School for three years prior to her job as principal at Coolidge the past five years.
Before coming to D.158, Blomquist taught for 30 years in Dolton Riverdale School District 148, mostly as a junior high math teacher at Lincoln School.
"I've reached an age where I think I've done it long enough consecutively that it's time to go," Blomquist said. "It's time to turn it over to new people with fresh ideas."
Blomquist said she will miss the children and seeing how excited they get when they learn something new.
"I liked being a teacher because I was with the kids a lot and that gave me a great deal of immediate satisfaction," she said. "I like being a principal because I can have some influence to help more children at a time and to help guide some teachers into ways to change their teaching and their instruction."
One thing fascinating about coming to D.158 was how many people Blomquist bumped into from her past in D.148.
"Coming to (District) 158 has been like a coming home," she said. "I've had many students here at the school who I've taught their parents, so that's kind of neat to see how the children turn out versus how the parents were when they went through."
One of Blomquist's former students at Lincoln Elementary School is current D.158 School Board Vice President Chuck Taylor.
Taylor said he did not always get along with Blomquist in junior high because of some of his hijinks that included ordering a pizza to the school without permission.
But Taylor did not hold that against her when she applied for work in D.158.
"When I saw her name as an applicant I thought, oh, we have to get her in the district because she's tough as nails and takes no nonsense," Taylor said. "She's been an awesome addition to the school and I'm glad we got to have her here."
Blomquist does not dispute that she was very tough as a beginning teacher.
"And then as I grew and saw that that didn't always work, even though I know it helped many kids, I changed a little bit," she said. "I'm still tough. I'm still firm, but I have a little bit of a kind part to me now."
Some of Blomquist's fondest memories at Coolidge include having pies thrown at her face as part of a fundraising effort at Family Fun Nights, and also leading the school's annual Halloween parade.
She said her first year at Coolidge, she was told the principal always dressed up for the parade.
"So I went out and rented a big rooster costume," Blomquist said.
She said she later found out that the former principal normally only donned fairy wings, but that was too late as Blomquist had to greet parents and lead the outdoor procession, feathers and all.
Blomquist will spend her retirement with her husband, Russ, a retired former D.148 teacher.
She said they will spend time in their new home and take a few trips in the wintertime.
Blomquist said she would choose her career over again "in a heartbeat," although she originally did not want to go into education. She had dreams of working in law enforcement.
"That was back in the '70s and women were just starting to get strong, and I didn't know how to go about becoming a policewoman or a secret service agent," she said.
But that didn't mean Blomquist's dream was totally abandoned.
"You're always a little bit of a cop anyway when you're a teacher," she said, with a laugh.