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Honors Handed Out At R-II School District’s 31st Annual Retirement And Recognition Banquet

The Ste. Genevieve R-II School District’s 31st annual Retirement and Recognition Banquet, an event honoring retirees and celebrating staff members for their service to the students and the community, took place May 10 at the Ste. Genevieve Knights of Columbus Hall,

A moment of silence honored and remembered Ste. Genevieve R-II family members who have recently passed away: Cynthia Nickelson, cook, employed from 1991 to 2018; and Carol Reynolds, substitute teacher, employed from 1999 to 2018.

Assistant superintendent Dr. Paul Taylor hosted the event, and the following awards were presented throughout the evening: Friend of Education, Employee of the Year, Coach of the Year and Supervisor of the Year.

Staff members who have served for 25 years were recognized, along with each building’s Teacher of the Year and staff members who have recently completed degree programs and earned awards.

Superintendent Dr. Julie Flieg recognized those staff members retiring this year.

Friend of Education Award

Without the support and contributions from our community, the R-II School District would not be able to provide a well-rounded educational experience for its students. Board of Education secretary Terry McDaniel and board member Jim Kirchner presented the 2018-19 Friend of Education award to Jason Schott, major and chief deputy with the Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff’s Office and president of the Ste. Genevieve County Board for the Developmentally Disabled.

Schott has been and continues to be an integral part of creating opportunities for success for all students in order to help create a more inclusive school and community. Most notable has been his work to raise funds for an all-abilities playground and the Challenger Baseball field. Both of these projects benefit the community and the school by allowing students of all abilities to play together and form meaningful friendships.

Most recently, as president of the Ste. Genevieve Board for the Developmentally Disabled, Schott has supported the special education van, appliances for the Life Skills class, and the soon-to-be vocational opportunities for students of all abilities at Common Grounds Coffee House, set to open later this year at the corner of Third and Merchant streets.

Employee of the Year Award

Board of Education vice president Joan Huck and board member Rick Rudloff presented the 2018-19 Employee of the Year award to Betty Bahr, custodian at Ste. Genevieve Elementary.

Bahr knows students by name and greets them daily with sincere caring. She stops whatever she is doing to help someone in need and spreads kindness wherever she goes. When the holidays come around, she plays festive music and makes every space in her building more beautiful through decorating and special events. Bahr is also a master baker and shares her fabulous treats with her co-workers. She is truly a one-of-a-kind, “they-don’t-make-them-like-this-anymore” role model for the students and staff.

Coach of the Year Award

Board of Education member  Eric Basler and secretary Terry McDaniel presented the 2018-19 Coach of the Year award to Jared Bonnell.

Bonnell has the unique ability to build meaningful relationships with students from all walks of life. He not only forms a bond with these students, but he coaches them in sports and perhaps more importantly, he coaches them in life. He is a genuine, down-to-earth, hard-working staff member who continually thinks of others before thinking of himself. This past year, Bonnell coached freshman football, was the head coach for high school wrestling and an assistant coach for softball.

Supervisor of the Year Award

Board of Education president David Bova and vice president Joan Huck presented the 2018-19 Supervisor of the Year award to Ste. Genevieve High School principal Chris Hoehne.

Hoehne continually strives for improvement, both for himself and his building, while honoring the traditions of the community and the school. Whether it is implementing programs to better meet students’ needs, working with community leaders to provide career opportunities for students, launching the “running of the halls” to bolster school spirit, or showing off his dance skills at a school assembly, Hoehne is “all-in” when it comes to the high school and our students.

25-Year Milestones

Each year, the district recognizes those staff members who have spent 25 years in their field for their perseverance and unyielding dedication. The employees who reached this milestone this year include:

— Stacy Bell, Bloomsdale Elementary fourth grade science teacher;

— Rebecca Cerutti, Bloomsdale Elementary first grade teacher;

— Davey Karl, assistant director of maintenance/housekeeping;

— Keith Schweiss, director of maintenance/housekeeping.

Teachers of the Year

The Teacher of the Year awards were presented by each building principal:

— Bloomsdale Elementary: Christina Guilford, art teacher.

“She is an effective educator who strives to motivate and engage all her students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade by preparing creative and fun projects to challenge them. She has a caring and jovial personality which gives her the ability to build caring relationships with her students and staff. She is one of those great and talented teachers who inspires students to be the best they can be.”

— Ste. Genevieve Elementary: Stephanie Evelsizer, third grade teacher.

“She is not only a great teacher, but a great leader. Knowledgeable, dedicated and passionate, she sees the potential of each student in her building. Through innovative station teaching, guided reading groups, and soft lighting in her room, her students build meaningful relationships with her and love being in this classroom, building community together.”

— Ste. Genevieve Middle School: Rachael Hoehn, science teacher.

“She dedicates herself to becoming a better educator in several different ways: she never passes up the opportunity for good professional development, and absorbs strategies and pedagogy and then applies them to make her classroom better. She also promotes excellence by thinking about the building-at-large.”

— Ste. Genevieve High School: Steve Zuspann, science teacher.

“He consistently takes some of the most challenging subjects offered to our students and delivers the content in such a way that it is easy to understand. Class presentations are engaging, entertaining and meaningful. His students are given an intense, positive and enjoyable learning experience, setting them up brilliantly for success at the next level.”


The Ste. Genevieve R-II employees who are retiring this year include:

— Ingrid McCaskie, 2005 to 2019.

She has 14 years of service at Ste. Genevieve R-II, teaching Spanish to students at Ste. Genevieve High School and Ste. Genevieve Middle School. However, her total years of service are actually 39. She has taught students ranging in age from first grade to the university level. She said her favorite memories involve the time she spent chaperoning the Class of 2018 and Class of 2019 senior trips.

— Mark D. Vogt, 2005 to 2019.

He has 14 years of service at Ste. Genevieve R-II, serving many roles at Ste. Genevieve High School. He has been the in-school suspension supervisor, taught team sports and coached girls basketball at the middle and high school levels, girls softball and boys golf. He also has six years of experience teaching at another school district. He is proud of the seven successful, winning seasons that he had as the girls varsity basketball coach. He is also extremely proud of the role he played in forming the Ste. Genevieve High School Hall of Fame and the eight years that he has served as the chair of the committee. In retirement, he plans to travel, golf and fish.

— Rebecca Cerutti, 1994 to 2019.

She has taught first grade at Bloomsdale Elementary for 25 years. She also served as a teacher’s aide with Cheryl Wohlstadter for one semester in 1994. Her retirement plans include spending more time with her family.

— John David Otto, 1992 to 2019.

He spent 27 years at Ste. Genevieve R-II teaching art to students. For eight years, he taught students at Bloomdale Elementary and Ste. Genevieve Elementary. After all that traveling between buildings, he was eventually assigned to teach art at Bloomsdale Elementary only for another eight years. The last 11 years, he has spent teaching students at Ste. Genevieve Middle School and Ste. Genevieve High School. In retirement, he has a long list of things he plans to do, including work on signs, leatherwork, painting, drawing, camping, fly fishing, pan fishing and bow hunting.

— Melissa Otto, 1992 to 2019.

She has 27 years of service at Ste. Genevieve R-II, serving many roles throughout her time with the district. She has taught first grade at Ste. Genevieve Elementary; first, second and fifth grades at Bloomsdale Elementary; sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade English language arts and drama at Ste. Genevieve Middle School; and served as the director of the Ste. Genevieve R-II Performing Arts Center. Prior to coming to Ste. Genevieve R-II, she taught at two other school districts for a total of three years. Her favorite memory involves a box full of notes and letters that she has collected over the years, which reminds her of why she became a teacher. Her retirement plans include spending more time with her family, quilting, reading and camping.

— Cynthia Nickelson, 1991 to 2018.

She was a cook on the Ste. Genevieve R-II campus for 27 years. She lost her battle with a medical condition in December 2018. Her husband Michael received her retirement gifts at the banquet.

Her coworkers shared their favorite stories of her. “Oh, you’re so fruit” was a common phrase that she used to describe her colleagues on a daily basis. There was not a person in the kitchen who did not want to be her fruit of the day. One colleague’s fondest memory was taking her daily lunch break and sitting next to Nickelson, who had a smile for everyone she met and a wicked sense of humor that made everyone around her laugh. She is greatly missed.

— Rebecca Hawthorn, 1991 to 2019.

She has been a paraprofessional at Ste. Genevieve R-II for 28 years. She also spent two years working at the State School No. 25 before she came to Ste. Genevieve. When asked what her favorite memory was, she replied that it was the day that she met former superintendent Mikel Stewart. Ste. Genevieve R-II had agreed to take over the state school program, and Stewart told Hawthorn that she had a job with the district. She said she was very thankful that she was grandfathered into her position, because she truly loves what she does. In retirement, she plans to work part-time, travel, fish and learn to stop and smell the roses.

— Steven Zuspann, 1990 to 2019.

He has 29 years of service at Ste. Genevieve R-II and has been a permanent fixture in the science hall since it was built in the early 1990s. He has taught chemistry, physics, advanced chemistry and organic chemistry at Ste. Genevieve High School. His favorite memory was the day this year that Sam Stolzer told him that he had been awarded an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Zuspann’s retirement plans include getting into better shape because he plans to play more with his boys, become a better husband and father, and build the boys a new playhouse with a zip line and basketball court.

Degrees, Awards And Other Achievements

The following staff members were recognized for earning degrees, awards and other achievements throughout the school year:

  • Ed Draper, specialist in mental health practices in schools.
  • Dr. Tracey Eatherton, master’s degree in educational administration; 2019 president of the National Association of Teachers of Family & Consumer Sciences.
  • Ashley Grein, specialist in teacher leadership.
  • Nikki Jenkins, master’s degree in educational technology.
  • Bethany Koetting, specialist in educational administration.
  • Michael McDaniel, recognized as Missouri Teacher of the Year by the Missouri Council for Social Studies Teachers.
  • Dr. Rhett Oldham, doctorate in educational leadership; 2019 Missouri Teacher of the Year Finalist.
  • Kimberly Rapp, master’s degree in elementary education.
  • Dr. Michael Ruch, master’s degree in educational administration.
  • Nichole Schenck, master’s degree in elementary education/early  childhood.
  • Dr. Gary Smith, master’s degree in educational administration.
  • Stephanie Sulser, specialist in technology in schools.
  • Russ Toombs, Southeast Missouri Region High School Counselor of the Year.
  • Rachel Wilson, specialist in teacher leadership.

Flieg and Taylor thanked the Ste. Genevieve R-II family — students, parents, employees and community members — for a wonderful school year.

For the annual Retirement and Recognition Banquet, the Ste. Genevieve Knights of Columbus provided the meal; L&P Digital Sound provided a sound system and musical entertainment; and Donna Huck, secretary to the assistant superintendent, coordinated, decorated and planned the event. Ste. Genevieve High School finance and athletic secretary Brandy Henderson volunteered to help set up and decorate along with seniors Ciara Jacob, Mary Reinbott and Kaylee Schmelzle. Volunteer servers were sophomore Cheyenne Abt, sophomore Molly Bahr, sophomore Mariah Boyer, junior Abigail Heller, sophomore Brittany Kreitler and sophomore Shaun Uzzell. Senior Clayton Huck delivered the invocation, and Ste. Genevieve Middle School English language arts and publications teacher Audra Womack photographed the event.

(Information in a release from the Ste. Genevieve R-II School District.)

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