Longtime teacher thankful for great career

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Kim Buettner had a bit of a circuitous route to her career in the Waterloo School District. 

She started working in the district in 1985 as a special education paraprofessional while in college. 

After earning her degree, she worked as a special education teacher in the Highland School District, followed by a stint in a South County school district for a couple of years. 

While working in Missouri, she had twins and received a call from Waterloo asking if she wanted to work closer to home. 

She did. 

“My husband and I both grew up in Waterloo,” Buettner said. “Our families are here, and we wanted our kids to go to school here and all that.” 

Buettner returned to the district in 1991, and she remained there for the next 30 years until she retired at the end of this school year.

“I’m just thankful for the Waterloo School District for employing me for all these years and giving me a great career,” Buettner said of her retirement.  

Over her tenure, she taught kindergarten, transition classes and, most recently, first grade. 

Buettner said she enjoyed “watching the school district grow so immensely” over her three decades. 

“When I first started at Zahnow, they were up to fifth grade, then in a couple years they were down to second grade and now it’s just up to first grade,” she noted. “The people want to come to the school district because it’s such a good school district. It makes you want to work there.”

Buettner also said she liked her work because of who she worked with. 

“It was always the kids,” she said of the favorite part of her job. “They always make me laugh. They bring joy to you every day.” 

That joy was dampened in the last two school years because the pandemic prevented students from having the same type of relationships with teachers, especially at a young age. 

“All the students disappeared from us last March,” Buettner said. “We thought they were going to be back in two weeks, but they never came back. We never got to say goodbye.”

Buettner and her fellow teachers still interacted with their pupils remotely, but that brought a whole host of new challenges. 

“Learning how to do remote learning, lesson plans, video lessons and all that kind of stuff was very new to us,” she said. “The technology that we had to learn for those kids who are still remote this year, it’s been a challenge.”

This year, after starting remotely, Buettner got to spend much more face-to-face time with her students, even if they wore masks. 

Her last day in the classroom was May 24, and she now plans to spend time with a new group of youngsters. 

“Since I’ve been a teacher for so long, I never did take off for my kids,” Buettner said. “So now it’s time for my family. I’m going to be a grandma in August, so I’ll be babysitting a couple of days a week.” 

Buettner’s husband and children have told her about the impact she has had on generations of children through her work, and she said she hopes that is true, although it can be difficult for her to see. 

“You don’t think that at the time,” she shared. “Seeing those kids that I’ve taught grow up, and I’ve actually had some of their kids, I don’t think you realize the impact you can have on students and their families as a teacher.”

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