Longtime Waterloo teacher retires
By ISABELLA SIMMONDS
For the Republic-Times
Kathy Reifschneider was fortunate enough to spend all her 35 years as an educator in the Waterloo school district – a place where she made many happy memories and lifelong friends.
Reifschneider, a Waterloo graduate herself, says she had many teachers of her own that inspired her to choose this career path.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was in high school. One of my instructors, his name was Jack Burke, pulled me in to talk. He was the one who basically told me to try teaching, which is what I went to school for and what I’ve been doing the past 35 years.”
She has taught at all three elementary buildings in Waterloo and has made many memories along the way.
She was often known for being part of a group of teachers, educators, and others who organized an annual Civil War play as well as field trips to Springfield. She spoke fondly of her recollections of those yearly events.
“It always brings a tear to my eye when the kids get a standing ovation at the end of “The Blue and The Gray,” which is our play,” Reifschneider said. “When we go to Springfield, my favorite part is that the kids make so many connections with the things that they’ve been learning in school. It’s really cool for them that they get to meet their senators and their representatives and see them in action after learning about government.”
Reifschneider loved being able to take her students to the Abraham Lincoln Museum, Abraham Lincoln House and the Illinois State Capitol, where she got to see them explore more of what they learned throughout the school year.
One especially fond memory for Reifschneider was when her students started singing a song from their play in front of the Lincoln House.
“They sang for their tour guide!” she laughed. “They performed the songs they had learned from the play and that was really sweet.”
As much as she enjoyed her times as a teacher, the years also brought difficulties – especially the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Probably the most challenging part of teaching during COVID was trying to get to know my kids over Zoom,” Reifschneider said. “We started the 2021 school year fully remote in Waterloo, so trying to get to know my 9-year-old fourth graders over Zoom was a bit difficult.”
As a grandmother, Reifschneider says she is excited and happy to be able to spend more time with her two new grandchildren and enjoy watching them grow up.
She also plans to spend her newfound free time traveling with her husband.
“I am definitely going to miss the kids, and I am going to miss my colleagues that I’ve been teaching with for so many years,” Reifschneider said of her time in the school district.
“The coolest thing about working in Waterloo is that I’ve always been part of a really great team. My fourth grade team has changed over time, but they’ve always been a very cohesive and supportive group,” Reifschneider said, adding, “The kids have always been first for all of us. I think that’s what made teaching at Waterloo the most special.”