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Westonka Staff Honored at Retiree and Years of Service Banquet


Emcees Bobbie Jo Tronsgard and Sarah Wright from Shirley Hills Primary School
Click the above image for photos from the 2019 Retiree and Years of Service Banquet

May 2, 2019 — The Westonka School District honored seven dedicated employees who will be retiring this year at the annual Retiree and Years of Service Banquet May 1 at the Lafayette Club. Additionally, 30 Westonka employees were honored for their years of service to the school district.

For the first time this year, the Westonka Teacher of the Year Award and the Ann Bremer White Hawks Awards were also presented at the banquet, adding to the enjoyment of the evening. Read about those awards here: Westonka Names Teacher of the Year, Honors District Volunteers

Shirley Hills Primary School teachers Bobbie Jo Tronsgard and Sarah Wright served as emcees for the evening, and entertainment was provided by Mound Westonka High School Jazz Band.

Long-time staff honored for years of service

Superintendent Kevin Borg and Westonka School Board Treasurer Ralph Harrison recognized long-time staff for their years of service to the school district.

Recognized for 15 years of service
Victoria Fraser, Cyndi Loewen, Dena Spanjers, Ali LaLonde, Art Newton, Anitra Trapp and Gloria Yule

Recognized for 20 years of service
Ann Baumann, Alan Hiebert, Michael Piccioli, Aaron Bray, Tina Kampa, Maria Ramthun, Brendon Burk, Christy Zachow, Jessica Rashleger, Gretchen Campbell, Diane Ludvigsen, Carol Stodola, Michelle Hempel, Lisa Paul and Mike Wallace

Recognized for 25 years of service
Marc Doepner-Hove, Diane Kacer, Candice Shelso-Wells, Marty Fischer, Sandra Opdahl and Jean Yerhot

Recognized for 30 years of service
Jim Halvarson and Gail Howard

Westonka bids farewell to seven retirees

The 2018-2019 Westonka retirees—Candice Shelso-Wells, Leigh Ann Kaminski, Karen Olaussen, Sandra Opdahl, Carol Stodola, Diane Kacer and Wendy Sullivan—were recognized and thanked for their service with Westonka Schools.

A paraprofessional job that was only supposed to be for six months for Candice Shelso-Wells turned into a 25-year career in the Westonka School District. “Working with the children has been so fulfilling, and I’ve had the pleasure of working and socializing with some of the most caring people,” Shelco-Wells said. “Grandma Candy” doesn’t have any big plans as she starts another chapter of her journey. “People ask what I’m going to do, and all I can say is, ‘Whatever I want,” she said.

Leigh Ann Kaminski is proud to say that she has taught in the Westonka district for 33 years, completing her teaching career with fifth-grade language arts at Grandview Middle School. In retirement, she plans to spend time with family, travel and volunteer, and she may teach English (online) as a second language. “I’ve had quite a journey and have been blessed to have worked with wonderful students, supportive parents and amazing colleagues,” Kaminski said.

After teaching 20 years in Wisconsin, Norway, Wyoming and Washington, Karen Olaussen started teaching in Westonka in 1996. After nine years serving as Media Specialist at Hilltop Primary School, she moved to Shirley Hills Primary School, where she was hired to be the art teacher. “I have been so fortunate to work for Westonka, a district that supports the arts and sees the importance it has on a child’s complete development,” Olaussen said.

Shirley Hills Primary School head cook Sandra Opdahl has worked for the Westonka School District for 25 years in the same kitchen. “I’ve met and worked with so many wonderful people over the years and am so grateful,” Opdahl said. “I’m looking forward to retirement and spending more time with my husband and grandchildren and traveling.”

Carol Stodola has enjoyed being a member of the Westonka Foodies, serving as cashier at Our Lady of the Lake school. “Over the past 20 years at OLL, I’ve enjoyed the staff and students every day,” Stodola said. She also enjoyed decorating for the seasons in the cafeteria, but she now plans to “have a lot of sales” in retirement to deplete her decorating supplies.

Twenty-five years working for the Westonka School District flew by for Diane Kacer. She started out in the old school building, the Pods, where Jubilee Foods is now located. "I have met so many wonderful people over the years—the students and their families, along with some great staff who have become my lifelong friends," Kacer said. Her future plans include continuing to sub and to travel, especially out to Montana to visit her daughter and family.

Wendy Sullivan retired after 21 years in the district. She served as a paraprofessional at Hilltop.


Becca Neuger
(952) 491-8003