When she first joined the Columbia School District, Linda Schmersahl was hired as a substitute teacher for a kindergarten teacher who was on sick leave.
When that teacher did not return, she replaced that person full-time.
Kindergarten through eighth grade was all in the district’s old unit building at that point, and Schmersahl was one of only two kindergarten teachers at the time.
Each teacher had two classes, with students coming to school every other day.
“That was not the ideal situation, as we had kids coming on the wrong days after a holiday or snow day,” Schmersahl remembered.
In 1991, kindergarten classes moved to Parkview Elementary School and students attended every day.
In 2010, Schmersahl returned to the unit building now known as Eagleview Elementary and finished her career there after retiring at the end of this school year.
“Columbia is a great district with great administration, parents and students,” Schmersahl said. “I feel so grateful and blessed to have had my teaching career in Columbia.”
Schmersahl first moved to Columbia after she got engaged to her husband, Mark, because it was his hometown.
She had graduated from Eastern Illinois University and taught preschool in central Illinois, so when she moved here she taught kindergarten at a private day care in St. Louis and worked as a substitute teacher in area districts.
She decided to work in Columbia full-time after only a year.
“We have many great school districts around, but I wanted to work in the district where I was living,” Schmersahl said. “Growing up, my family moved around a lot, so after living and subbing in Columbia for a year if felt like home. I knew it was where I wanted to teach.”
Schmersahl remained teaching kindergarten for her entire 31-year career, taking a two-year leave of absence in 1998 after her fourth child was born.
The district hired Denise Cogo to fill that position while Schmersahl was out, and decided to keep her on because the town was growing.
“We have been classroom neighbors and great friends ever since,” Schmersahl said.
Throughout her time in the district, Schmersahl said her favorite part of the job was teaching.
“Teaching young kids is a fun adventure every day,” she said. “The saying that ‘kids say the darnedest things’ is so true. I would smile and laugh multiple times a day. When working with a child and that light bulb comes on when they finally understand a concept, it is such a heartwarming feeling and victory.”
Schmersahl also pointed out that, due to her long tenure, she was able to teach the children of former students and even worked with a former student who joined the district’s kindergarten staff.
As much as she enjoyed teaching, Schmersahl said she will miss those colleagues the most.
She predicted she will miss the interaction with her students greatly, too.
She said not having that interaction for the last two months of her career was the most difficult thing she faced in her over three decades.
“Technology does not come easy for me,” Schmersahl noted. “I owe a debt of gratitude to some of my great co-workers that helped me get through it. They helped with all the lesson plans online and helped me set up a YouTube channel.
“Nothing compares with the face-to-face teaching time with students, especially the younger ones. My heart goes out to all the teachers and staff having to deal with all the uncertainty of the next school year.”
Schmersahl is facing some uncertainty of her own, as she does not have definitive retirement plans.
She and her husband love to travel, so Schmersahl said they may do that more. That could include visiting their children Nathan, Emilie, Rick and Ethan.
“You never know, I may come back eventually and sub or help in some way,” Schmersahl added.