Honoring our 2020 retirees

With the close of the 2019-20 school year, the Herkimer Central School District also bid goodbye to several longtime employees who announced their resignations. We wish all our retirees the very best in retirement, and extend our thanks for their years of service.

Cheryl Bryant | Lisa Carswell | Sharon Spella | Marie “Tina” MacKenzie | John Krause | Kerry Reppel | Kathy Perkins

Cheryl Bryant

Employee since Feb. 27, 1989

“There may be things you can’t do, but you can learn to be respectful, loving, and kind.”

In 1989, gas was $1 a gallon, the Herkimer Fire Department moved into its new quarters on North Washington Street, and something called a “cellular telephone” was making headlines around the world. It was also the year that Cheryl Bryant started working at Herkimer CSD as a teacher’s assistant.

During her time supporting special education teachers and students in the primary grades, Mrs. Bryant said the students she worked with were as important to her as family. “They came off that bus and they ran to me and they hugged me first thing in the morning, and that’s something I’m going to miss,” she said.

Mrs. Bryant said she hopes her students will remember to do their best, no matter what. “There may be things you can’t do, but you can learn to be respectful, loving, and kind,” she said, “no matter who you are.”

In retirement, Mrs. Bryant said she hopes to continue working with those who have special needs as a volunteer, and being able to spend more time with her family.

Lisa Carswell

Employee since Sept. 18, 1989

“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes — the important thing is where you go after that.”

In September of 1989, “Baywatch” debuted on television, Nolan Ryan clocked his 300th strikeout, and Lisa Carswell started working for Herkimer CSD.

A Herkimer High School graduate, Mrs. Carswell was inspired to become a teacher by her former algebra and geometry teacher, Mr. Rando. “He made math seem so easy and was able to build connections with his students,” Mrs. Carswell recalled.

At the time of her retirement, Mrs. Carswell was an academic intervention services teacher, helping elementary students build their skills in specific academic areas. Her advice to students? “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes — the important thing is where you go after that.”

Mrs. Carswell retired in March 2020.

Sharon Spella

Employee since Sept. 23, 1991

“She treated the classrooms like they were her own home.”

The year 1991 saw the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of the Gulf War and the beginning of Sharon Spella’s career as a cleaner at Herkimer CSD. For nearly three decades, after the school day ended, Mrs. Spella’s day began, making sure that teachers’ classrooms at Herkimer Elementary were cleaned and ready to go for the following day.

“She treated the classrooms like they were her own home,” said Mr. McKernan, Buildings and Maintenance. “She worked very hard for many years, and would go above and beyond for her teachers.”

Mrs. Spella got to know many of the teachers at HES, and cared for more than just their classrooms — she also often helped take care of class pets, like turtles, rabbits or other creatures, feeding them and making sure they were cared for during school vacations.

“She was dependable and reliable, and she was always there with a smile,” Mr. McKernan said.

Marie “Tina” MacKenzie

Employee since Aug. 4, 1994

“Search for your own answers first, and do it with enthusiasm.”

In the summer of 1994, Major League Baseball players were on strike, Woodstock ‘94 drew thousands of concertgoers to upstate New York, and Tina MacKenzie joined the staff at Herkimer CSD.

A licensed teaching assistant, Mrs. MacKenzie has spent most of her career in the high school. As an LTA, she has supported classroom teachers, worked with students who have individualized education plans, and helped run the Learning Lab where students can get one-on-one academic support.

“Basically, our job is to make sure everybody’s particular needs are being met,” Mrs. MacKenzie explained. And that includes helping students learn how to find their own solutions to the problems they may face, she added.

“I would like them to search for their own answers first,” she said of her students, adding, “And do it with enthusiasm. If you don’t have enthusiasm for what you’re doing, your success isn’t going to be as exciting.”

Mrs. MacKenzie said she will miss spending time with the students, including chaperoning at athletic events. “I’m not the type of person to stay indoors,” she said, adding that she is looking forward to being able to travel in the future.

John Krause

Employee since Oct. 14, 1996

“Always give your best.”

1996 saw the debut of the cartoon show “Arthur,” the first public performance of the musical “Rent,” and the start of John Krause’s career at Herkimer CSD, teaching chorus and directing the annual musicals at the Jr./Sr. High School.

Mr. Krause’s tenure at Herkimer includes a 2015 award from the Genesis Group, recognizing him as an outstanding educator. Outside of the classroom, Krause has performed in and directed productions with local and regional theater companies — a passion which he said will continue in retirement.

Mr. Krause said that retirement is bittersweet, and that there’s a lot he will miss.

“I’ll miss the sounds of my choirs,” he said, adding, “I love the sounds of school-age kids singing. It’s such a nice, joyful sound.”

Mr. Krause also said he will miss his fellow teachers, calling them “probably the nicest staff ‘family’ in any district.”

Mr. Krause’s advice for his students? “Always give your best, because at the end of the day, you can always live with the results of the best that you’ve done.”

Kerry Reppel

Employee since Dec. 7, 1998

“It’s so easy to be kind, and yet it means so much to others.”

In 1998, “Titanic” won 11 Oscars, Google was founded, and Kerry Reppel started substitute teaching at Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School. When a full-time position opened up, Mrs. Reppel started out teaching Spanish and French at the elementary school, and Spanish at the junior high.

At the time of her retirement, Mrs. Reppel taught Spanish at the junior high level, and despite having a background in elementary education, she said she found that she really enjoyed teaching in the middle school.

“I love the enthusiasm, I love the mind of a middle schooler,” Mrs. Reppel said.

Mrs. Reppel said she always encouraged her students to be kind, saying, “It’s worth the effort it takes.” A Spanish slogan that hung in her classroom read, “La cortesía vale mucho y poco cuesta,” which she translated to mean, “It’s so easy to be kind, and yet it means so much to others.”

In retirement, Mrs. Reppel said she is looking forward to being able to travel more in the future, and spending time on hobbies such as sewing.

Kathy Perkins

Employee since Dec. 1, 2016

“The world’s an open book. It’s full of new and interesting things to learn every day.”

Mrs. Perkins will begin her retirement in October 2020. 

Kathy Perkins began working at Herkimer Elementary School in 2016 as a long-term substitute, but was hired as an academic intervention specialist working with students for whom English was a second language.

Despite not knowing many people in the district, Mrs. Perkins said she was “welcomed with open arms,” and spoke fondly of the friendly and kind atmosphere at the elementary school.

“The children come into class ready to learn — they want to be there,” she said, adding that she will miss helping the students she worked with.

“A lot of times I tell the kids, the world’s an open book,” she said. “It’s full of new and interesting things to learn every day.”

Mrs. Perkins said that, following her retirement in October, she is looking forward to spending winters in a warmer climate, and spending more time with her grandchildren.

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