As teachers retire and kids move on from grade to grade, there are usually intentions of keeping in touch, but that doesn’t always happen. Life moves forward and kids usually lose touch with the educators who inspired them.
As Kouts High School celebrates their commencement ceremony, there will be a special person in the audience who has known several of the graduates since they were 8-years-old. Dianne Henderson, who retired in 2008 from her 3rd grade teaching post at Kouts Elementary School, will be there to congratulate her former students. Henderson was a teacher for 36 years and spent 29 years as a teacher in Kouts, with all but one year spent as a third grade teacher.
“When my son was in her class 10 years ago, and I was the room mom, the class purchased for her a director’s chair that all the kids in the class wrote on and signed stating ‘From the Class of 2013,’” said Cathy Kuchenmeister. “She said at the time that when these kids graduate in 2013 she was going to bring that chair to graduation and sit in it on the gym floor with them.”
“The kids autographed it, and they gave it to me as a surprise when we were having a party at school one day,” said Henderson. She plans to be as close to the front as she can, sitting in her yellow director’s chair. “This was one of those classes that go through that are very fun and fun-loving,” she said.
She said the chair will also come along as she attends graduation parties and open houses for her former students. “Getting those invitations in the mail, it’s very meaningful. I love going to the open houses. I always felt like Kouts was like Camelot. It’s a lovely community of teachers and parents and students. To go to the open houses is great. It’s like icing on the cake.”
While she hasn’t seen several of her students since they left her class, she said she runs into some of them around town. Recently she said she saw Kuchenmeister’s son, Ben, at the movie theatre. “I remember when he was 3-foot-tall and he’s now 6-foot-tall. We had a good hug in the lobby of the theatre and I thought, ‘How grand is that? That a teenager in a public place will do that?”
Henderson has kept busy since retirement. She and her husband, a retired middle school teacher, love to travel and she said they’ve been crossing things off of their bucket lists, including trips to South America, Africa and India. This fall they will travel to Russia. They plan to visit every continent and have two left to go. “We’ve always loved to travel,” she said, “But now that I’m retired we are able to go to more exotic places at different times of the year.”
She also enjoys going out for morning runs, which she does regularly with another retired teacher. “I’m just enjoying life, enjoying time and enjoying the freedom,” she said.