Distinguished teachers dance to retirement
May 30, 2008
When the school year starts next August, Agnes Johanson and Renee Daines will share a toast while they sit in a hot tub somewhere off the coast of Cancun. They will dedicate the toast to their retirement.
Both Johanson and Daines are two of the 12 teachers retiring this year from the Park City School District; both held long tenure at McPolin Elementary School. Along with Kim Jensen, they were also honored at McPolin last Wednesday during their "That ’70s Day" assembly. Students from the school watched slideshows from all three teacher’s lives and rocked out to the tunes of the ’70s, including the Rolling Stones’ "Beast of Burden."
Best described by her peers as "active," Johanson began teaching almost 40 years ago in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles. At the time, before the area experienced massive growth, the district was in desperate need of teachers. Even though Johanson possessed only the qualifications to work as an aide, they asked her to teach.
After several years of working, and a few off to raise children, Johanson moved to the Park City area to take advantage of the skiing and the lifestyle. She taught for one year at Carl Winters Middle School before taking a job teaching in Salt Lake City, where she taught for 10 years.
She returned to Park City in time to open McPolin Elementary School 18 years ago. "That was fun. We were very close as teachers," she said of the early staff at McPolin. Johanson has taught fourth-graders at the school ever since. "I love ’em," she said. "Nine-year-olds are like little rosebuds. They’re just beginning to open."
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Of all the incredible changes she has witnessed over the years, more than anything else Johanson regrets the institutionalization of testing in the schools. "(It’s) gone from interference to the dominant scene in education," she said. She also misses the days when she was able to take her students on 10 field trips a year to locations all over the state.
As a long-time Park City resident, Johanson also said that she has witnessed "hysterical building all the time in Park City." This past year, to avoid the traffic from construction and other sources, she biked to school every day, except the handful when she skied or walked. Her students, in fact, bought her a cruiser to get to school.
An avid athlete, even off her bike, Johanson has big plans to hike and travel during her retirement. She also hopes to work on her ceramics and even manage property part-time. As much as she looks forward to these activities, she will miss working with her peers, especially Craig Roberson, and putting on musicals with the children.
"The kids need to be the focus. They have been the focus for me," she said.
Daines graduated from the University of Utah in 1960 and taught in the Salt Lake City School District for several years before moving to Casper, Wyo. to teach for several more. When her family moved to Park City in 1979, Daines then took several years away from teaching to raise her family and to open and operate a business, the Flower Box.
After closing the Flower Box, she returned to teaching in 1989 to instruct students at Treasure Mountain Middle School (TMMS). For the next few years she moved back and forth between TMMS and McPolin. She has taught every grade from second to eighth. "I’m a teacher who loves change. Every grade you teach has a different core," she said.
She remembers those earlier days fondly for the small classes she routinely taught. "If the world would understand (the importance of small class sizes), we would solve so many problems," she remarked.
Like Johanson, Daines also dislikes the institutionalization of testing over the years. "I look forward to the days without all of the testing. I think there’s more to life than tests," she said. For her, students constantly change each year and there is no test that can accurately probe their future success.
Daines has also held strong in her belief that a musical education is of great benefit to the students. Sacrificing much of her own time, she has overseen productions of "Annie," "Guys and Dolls" and "Oliver" while teaching at McPolin. "Musically, there’s nothing better for the soul," she said.
While Daines intends to continue teaching as a substitute for the high school, where she first started in Park City, she also has big plans to spend more time with each of her 19 grandchildren and, of course, to travel with Johanson.
"It’s an interesting journey. I’m so lucky though, to have worked in the field of teaching."
The Park City School District will retire a total of 12 teachers this year. Each of them has made outstanding contributions to the area over the years. The other ten are:
John Krenkel (Park City High School) Tony Winterer (Park City High School) Bill Kahn (Park City High School) Bob Burns (Park City High School) Jerry Fiat (Park City High School) Craig Watson (Park City High School) Pam Carlquist (Park City High School) Kathleen Brandon (Treasure Mountain International School) Marsha Klarberg (Treasure Mountain International School) Susan Williams (Parley’s Park Elementary School) Jeanette Raymer (Jeremy Ranch Elementary School) Martha Crook (Trailside Elementary School)