The Swiss Army Knife of Immaculate Conception School in Columbia will soon not be lending her myriad skills to the school.
Sue Lewis is retiring after 33 years of full-time employment at the school, during which time she worked as a substitute teacher, latchkey director, kindergarten aide, physical education teacher, profile chairman, religion teacher, technology teacher and office administrator.
“I just felt it was the right time. When you get older, your body starts whispering in your ear,” Lewis said. “I’ve always felt like God places me where I am most needed and where I can do the most good, so I am ready to see what the next big thing is.”
Lewis’ career with the school began in 1988 when she founded the latchkey program.
She had been volunteering as a kindergarten aide and working as a substitute teacher, and she saw the need for the program.
ICS Principal Mike Kish, who also retired this year, agreed, and so Lewis’ tenure began.
“The latchkey program schedule was from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and then in the afternoon from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., so that gave me time to do other things in between,” Lewis said. “So, Mr. Kish started plugging me in other positions that were needed.”
That included being a PE teacher for the lower grades and computer teacher.
“I had experience with computers while I was an administrative assistant in my brother’s maintenance company so it seemed like a good fit,” Lewis remembered. “Back then, technology was in the baby stages, so any experience with technology was an asset. Later, when my mentor and colleague Marge Krizan moved to a full classroom schedule, I took over as the full-time computer teacher.”
Through all those roles, Lewis was motivated by what she saw while her four children were in school.
“I saw how hard the teachers worked and wanted to lighten their load by helping them anyway I could, running off papers, grading, recess duties, etc.” Lewis explained. “In a small Catholic school, there are always jobs that are needed and, of course, extra funding. I couldn’t contribute financially, but I could contribute my time and talent. Being around the school all the time made me aware that this is where God thought I could do my best work. The love of learning and the love of children made ICS a great fit for me.”
Lewis, who most recently worked as an office administrator, said her favorite job at ICS was technology teacher because of the work she had to do to stay up-to-date, though that could also be a challenge.
“The exciting part about that was I got to learn from the students, too,” she said. “Technology is always changing and evolving. I loved it when the kids would say ‘yeah, Mrs. Lewis, but did you know you could do this?’ I could always be ‘wowed’ by them.”
“Technology is constantly changing and evolving,” Lewis added. “Trying to stay current and knowledgeable about what was coming kept me on my toes.”
Lewis said the students were the favorite part of her job – especially when she could “see the light bulbs come on when the kids learn something new and are excited about it.”
One memory that stood out as being particularly special happened in 2004 when she coached the ICS eCybermission team that won a regional award in science and technology.
The team, which included students Brett Delaria, Jenny Hannon, Emma Mathews and Dan Everding, got an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national event.
“We didn’t win, but competing and touring D.C. was reward enough,” Lewis said. “The other highlight that I treasure was having a parent tell me that I made a difference in their child’s life. I was the one that made her child want to come to school. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Lewis has fewer than 60 days to have that experience again, as she plans to retire around July 30.
She does not have any big plans for retirement, as she only aims to discover some new hobbies and travel a bit.
“I am looking forward to no alarm clocks, setting my own schedules and seeing where God takes me in this new chapter,” Lewis said.
While she may not be sure what retirement holds, Lewis is confident in the assessment of her career.
“I have had a very fulfilling career – a career I really considered more of a hobby, except I was lucky enough to get paid for it,” she assessed. “The old saying about if you get to do a job you love you will never work a day in your life holds very true for me. I’ve really enjoyed my work and had fun doing it. There was never a day I couldn’t wait to get to work.”