Cerro Gordo says goodbye to 3 longtime staffers

BY CHRISTY JANKOWSKI

 

The Cerro Gordo school system said goodbye to three longtime staff members at the end of the 2017-18 school year. They are profiled below.

 

Pamella Grohmann

Pamella Grohmann is leaving a musical legacy behind. She has taught K-12 music in Cerro Gordo for a total of 22 years with 10 years prior teaching experience between Meridian and Lakeland College, directed over 60 musicals if you count in the grade school performances, accompanied many students for contests, auditions, and more. 

She began her college career as a piano performance major, but switched to a degree in Agriculture at Western Illinois University. She then went on the Eastern Illinois University to obtain her teaching certificate in Music, and finished with obtaining a degree in Guidance Counseling through the University of Alabama.

“Mrs. G” as many alums and students refer to her will tell you Grohmann has impacted their lives in various ways. Alum, Ben Sims states, “In a school dominated by athletics, she really gave a lot of us a place to shine and grow. And what I love about her most and respect is that she’s proud of Cerro Gordo.” He went on to add “She is immensely talented and could have thrived in a bigger district with a bigger budget, but she stayed and put our town on the map.” Sims was involved in quite a few musicals starting with house lights when he was in Junior High. While interviewing Grohmann, she did state she had offers to teach in Decatur, but turned them down. 

Sims isn’t the only student singing Grohmann’s praises. Andrew Arseneau, another past student that ran the spotlight and soundboard for the musicals as well as acted says, “It was a really cool experience to get to be around all the High School Students. I was in some musicals through the rest of my school career but those early experiences helped me to grow a love for working behind the scenes, something I still carry to this day.” Luke Martina, another alum and past student said, “Mrs. G made it fun and easy to step out of my comfort zone and sing on stage. I am thankful for the memories I have of musical practices and performances.” 

Grohmann not only touched students, but their parents as well. Kelly Born West, a parent of three alums, one of which went on to pursue music in her career enjoyed having her. “Mrs. Grohmann’s love of music is contagious. She has a way of getting young people to try things way outside their comfort zone and realize they can do things they never dreamed possible.” She went on to add, “The impact she has had on the Cerro Gordo School district children and this community is incredible. She has been a blessing and truly enriched our live more than she could ever know.”

When asked what her favorite musical is, she stated, “Whatever musical I am working on at the time.” For her, teaching music is more than just teaching singing. “I think music is teaching more than just teaching notes, rhythm, and melody. It’s teaching a passion for life and prepares you for a lot of things.”

As many know, life throws predictments your way all the time. Musicals are no exception. Grohmann states that right before her final show a few weeks ago, the set ripped. “Yeah, when things go wrong, what do you do? You keep going. We had the set get ripped right before the Saturday night show and everyone just ran and got tape, staples, and boom, boom, boom, it was done. Nobody said, what do we do, they just started doing.” She went on to add, “Life is full of twists and turns that are unexpected, and how are you going to handle that? And that’s what I think the musicals do for us.” 

Multiple students stood out to her, and not just those that have pursued music, although she does admit that’s neat to see. Teaching in a small school district has allowed more of that as she gets to watch the students grow in multiple ways she states. 

I am also an alum of Grohmann. Throughout middle school and high school I participated in multiple music activities, and even began my college career as a music major. I could go to her to just spill my worries, and get a lesson in how to not sound so sharp at the same time. She was a delight to have as a teacher, and she taught me more than just how to sing or read music. She taught me that even when you think you cannot go on, music can heal you. 

As for the new auditorium, she’s excited. “I think it’s great. We can work up there.” Currently the music room is directly below the gymnasium. This creates a bit of a battle when attempting to practice. The auditorium will allow more flexibility and privacy for students. 

Grohmann plans on spending her retirement with her family, traveling, sewing alterations, and visiting Cerro Gordo often for performances. She has a granddaughter in the grade school, and states that was one of her favorite parts of teaching as well. “I think one of my favorite things is having my granddaughter in class. I think that’s been one of my favorite things to teach Chloe. It’s been a real joy.”

Grohmann’s last “hoorah” she states will be going to Disney soon with the music students. “I’m looking forward to that, I think it will be fun. It’s my first one!”

I have no doubt that Grohmann will be missed throughout the Cerro Gordo community. Good luck, and break a leg!

 

Bonnie Swango

Bonnie Swango started her career in the old grade school buildings basement. Over the years she has drifted back and forth between teaching Second or Third grade for Cerro Gordo. Before teaching Elementary with Cerro Gordo, she taught throughout the area. She began her teaching career with Cisco Junior High in the Special Education Department. That school no longer exists. She also taught in Monticello, Mattoon, and Macon. She obtained her Bachelor’s through Eastern with a focus on Elementary and Special Education. Then, went on to finish her Masters with a reading focus with Eastern Illinois University.

One of the highlights she states as a teacher was receiving a letter from a past student. “I just got a letter yesterday from a student that is now a teacher, and now he understands what it takes to be a teacher, and he appreciates his teachers more.” Adding, “That means a lot. So those things, you build relationships with students.”

Her favorite part of teaching is witnessing the growth, “When they started in August and where they end up is phenomenal. I look back on the pictures, and they have changed, but they have changed in every aspect. I love seeing that growth.”

Not only does the students growth inspire her, but the staff and friendliness of the community played a key role. She states, “Just the commodore here and the support for each other. What a wonderful staff.” She began her teaching career with Mrs. Debbie Blickensderfer and ended up with her as her final teaching partner. 

There were many changes over her career, but the most major change Swango states is technology. When she began teaching, there were no copy machines she states. “Well, I started student teaching in 1979, so imagine the changes there. We didn’t even have a copy machine in the building.” She went on to add that in the beginning they ran what are called “dittos.” Which is the process of cutting out stencils and using a typewriter to make the necessary materials. 

As for computers, that change has been extraordinary she states, “ I went to college without a computer. You just took your pens, your paper, and manual typewriter.” It became apparent to her the changes with the students when teaching calculator use a few years back. “I guess it was about two years ago, and we got out the calculator and that year every one of them picked it up and used it like their phones.” She went on to say, “That’s one of those big monument moments when you know technology just changed. It was awesome really.”

She plans on spending her retirement giving back and visiting grandchildren. “A lot of volunteering is my main thing, and getting to Texas more than once a year.” Swango has a few grandchildren there and hopes to spend lots of time with them. 

Something about Mrs. Swango that many may not know is that her husband was a minister for 29 years. They both teach bible classes weekly, and she plans to continue that. Once a teacher, always a teacher. 

The golden rule of “treat others how you want to be treated” hangs above her doorway. Ministry and the Christian faith have always been near and dear to her heart. She states that her faith has aided in compassion. 

Swango is an avid cyclist and loves to ride the Fairview bike trail for leisure. She plans to substitute teach some in the future, but for now would like to focus on family and volunteer work. One of her big plans is to volunteer with the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. Her original major was History and she loves the history of Lincoln. So, you may catch her out there dressed up or volunteering in other ways. 

 

Jim Walsh

Jim Walsh has been a part of the Cerro Gordo faculty as the head of maintenance for 32 years. He says, “it’s the best job in Cerro Gordo.” 

Although he says he will miss it, Walsh is also looking forward to his retirement. When asked what his job entails, he says, “Just taking care of the district wide buildings and grounds. You know, just fixing stuff.”

A native to the area, Walsh graduated from Cerro Gordo in 1979 and worked only three jobs in his career. Once for Cerro Gordo in the same position for four years, and then at a General Cable in Monticello for a few years. He left the factory to come back to the position at Cerro Gordo, taking a pay cut. However, the choice paid off because not only did he like his position at Cerro Gordo, the factory ended up closing. 

Jim is known to be helping with a smile on his face wherever needed throughout the district. He has enjoyed his time in the town, “It’s always fun working with kids, and then you know like Brett McNamara came back and he works here now. It was always good. I have a lot of good memories. It’s a great job, and it’s the best job in Cerro Gordo as far as I’m concerned.”

During the summer months, Jim works with various students appointed by the administration. Andrew Arseneau a past student worker said this when asked about his time working with Jim: 

“I spent a few of my summers working at the school as custodial help. In that time I remember Jim always seemed to have a positive attitude. He always had a smile on his face even when there were many reasons not to. He was always working hard to maintain the facilities and always set the example for the rest of the custodial help. I don’t think he ever asked us to do a job he wouldn’t do himself.”

Luke Martina, another past student worker, added, “Jim will always remember me as the kid who wedged the mower between the fence and the telephone pole.” 

One thing many may not know about Mr. Walsh is that he is a model train fan. He has a set in his shed that he plans to work on now that he is retiring. He also plans to spend more time with grandchildren, and just relax. He’ll be around he states if the new Head of Maintenance, Chris Johnson has any questions.

Categories (2):News, Education

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