Central elementary librarian retiring

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Elementary librarian Pat Klingman was presented with a bell from CEA President Staci Schmeling during her retirement party. Klingman is retiring after 35.5 years in the Central School District, and plans to enjoy traveling, visiting family and quilting.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The arrival of summer means the end of another school year and also the end of a career for Pat Klingman, who spent 35.5 years with the Central School District, most recently as elementary librarian. 


But Pat’s life inside a school didn’t start at Central—or even in Iowa. No, Pat’s early life was in Nebraska, where she attended a one-room school house until second grade, when it was consolidated into a three-room school which lasted until she was in eighth grade. 


From there, the family took a brief detour to another part of Nebraska, before arriving in Dubuque during Pat’s junior year. After her father become a pastor in Elkport and Littleport, she spent her senior year in—and graduated from—Elkader. Pat met her future husband that summer and attended college at Area 1, now NEICC. Driven by a passion to work with kids, it was in college where Pat earned a diploma in early childhood. 


“The rest, as they say, is history,” she reflected.


However, Pat didn’t jump right into the workplace. After graduating from Area 1, she got married and started a family. 


On Jan. 12 1988, a date Pat remembers because it’s her mother’s birthday, she started working at the Central School District in Volga because, as Pat jokingly retold the story, her husband thought she needed to get a job. 


Of course, Pat admitted, “he wasn’t wrong.” It got her out of the house, and gave her the opportunity to be around kids—well, eventually. 


Pat initially started as a three-hour-a day custodian, in a job she joked was as “the assistant toilet bowl cleaner.” Next came being the “dreaded vegetable lady,” as Pat put it, as she had the unenviable task of serving veggies in the lunch line. 


In 2005, the school in Volga closed, so Pat transitioned locations and occupations, becoming an associate in kindergarten before moving to the “big building” as a special education associate. It was six years ago when Pat became elementary librarian, which she said was “the most satisfying” of all her positions. 


It was in this position where Pat had the most contact with kids, helping them learn reading, writing and math. She also completed daily library tasks, and at this point, she was basically the Swiss Army knife of school employees. 


That was a fact touched on by Central Superintendent Nick Trenkamp, when he said, “I have heavily appreciated Mrs. Klingman’s dependability and flexibility. As the needs of our students have changed, I could always count on [her] to help meet those needs. She has covered duties, worked with small group interventions and has done 1:1 interventions, all while managing the library.”


Pat most enjoyed reading to the kids, and recalled how kids would claim she was the “best reader and read the best books in media.”


“I loved reading to the kids and exposing them to different types of books. Through reading to them, I found a favorite author and the kids also found an author that writes books that appeal to them,” Pat said. 


In this role, Pat heaped praise on Nancy Healy, the school’s librarian and technology director, and special education teacher Deb Deitchler, who were always there to answer questions, give encouragement and help her grow and be creative in the role. 


Pat was able to do things she thought might help the kids, like mark the books so they could easily determine if it was in their AR level, how many points they could get by reading the book and what genre the book was.  


“They could tell all that at a glance. It made theirs and my life a whole lot easier,” Pat explained. “I also worked very hard to help the kiddos I worked with understand what they were working on. To do that, sometimes I had to put myself in their place, figuring out how they learned and adapting to that, under teacher supervision.” 


Over the years, Pat has collected an abundance of memories at Central. After all, it’s where she graduated from, as well as her husband and their children. Soon, a granddaughter will likely go to Central and, with any luck, graduate from Central, which at this point appears to be a family tradition. 


Along with the family memories, Pat readily recalls her time at Volga and how it was “like family working down there.” She mentioned how talks and conversations still arise about that time and how it’s missed. 


Then there is this last year, which will “always stand out,” she said.  Pat called it an “awesome year,” with a packed schedule, little downtown and countless moments with kids that will live on. 


“I have always enjoyed everything about Central, whether it’s the kids, staff, culture, whatever. There have been ups and downs, but that’s the way life is. You work through it and learn from it. Everyone here is great to work with and help you through good and bad times,” she said. 


The decision to retire started as random thoughts during the pandemic, when school wasn’t in session, but it never evolved beyond that. However, as another year went by and then another, Pat started thinking more about other things she wanted to do, like spending more time with her husband, visiting family and going quilt shopping. 


She also joked, “I don’t have the patience for some things as I had before and I detest the alarm ringing at 6 a.m.”


The time had come, and with it came a retirement celebration at Central, which included a Worthy Warrior that was signed by the elementary students, which was kept a complete surprise. Mrs. Tuecke’s class wrote a poem and there was a retirement party thrown by Tracy Follon with a signed card from the staff. The CEA also presented Pat with a gold engraved bell, which is given to anyone who retires from Central. 


“We like to celebrate any staff member that retires from education and especially from Central…It just so happens that the bell that was presented to Pat was just like a bell she heard going through school herself, which created a lot of memories that she shared with the staff. We were so honored and privileged to have Pat in our school,” said Central CEA President Staci Schmeling.


As she enters retirement, Pat is excited about a host of things, starting with traveling to see family, including a son who works oversees,  her mother in South Dakota and family still residing in Nebraska. She also has five grandkids ranging in age from 2 to 13 who are “growing up too fast,” she said. Then don’t forget about shopping for quilts and sharing them.


Of course, retirement will also allow something else: Pat will finally be able to turn off that “darn alarm clock” and sleep past 6 a.m. 


“I don’t like getting up with the chickens,” she said. “I will also give a yippee when I don’t have to drive to Elkader, or home again, in snowstorms,” she added with a smile. 


After 35.5 years, Pat can finally take the time off she never did during her career. She looks back fondly and proudly, knowing that, in the words of Trenkamp, “she will be deeply missed.” 


“I have enjoyed my time at Central and will always have many fond memories. While I am ending this chapter in my life, I will certainly miss the kids and staff and want to thank them again for everything they did for me during my time there,” she said. “It was a perfect ending to a great career.”

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