Joyfully ending 27 years of ‘where she wanted to be’

By Patty Rice Groth

June 16, 2014

After graduating from Buckeye Central High School, retiring kindergarten teacher Dennise Holtzapfel earned her bachelor’s degree from the Ohio State University in elementary education, grade kindergarten through eighth grade, and special education for all grades. That was in 1974. She married the love of her life, Mike Holtzapfel, and her career for many years was as a full-time homemaker and mother to their three children. These days they like to brag about their five grandchildren!

She took her first teaching job with the Galion City School District – from which she is now retiring 27 years later! Before being assigned a kindergarten classroom Holtzapfel worked with special education students in both the middle and high schools. Gaining a seat as a kindergarten teacher put her, she says, “where she wanted to be.”

“I couldn’t imagine being elsewhere,” she says.

A morning person, Holtzapfel liked to arrive well before the children, enjoying the quiet, and using the time to prepare for the day.

Over the last five or six years of teaching, Holtzapfel saw big changes occur. She served as a technology coach for her fellow teachers. Bringing iPads, iPods and smart boards into the classroom has encouraged and supported the children’s natural open attitude toward learning. Kindergarten students know how to research information! What appear to be “games” are tools for teaching math, reading and drawing, she explains. At kindergarten age, children are so eager to learn new things.

Her favorite part of each day is reading stories aloud. It’s not unusual for the children to act out stories, often with puppets or props.

Holtzapfel had done little to dismantle her years of classroom bulletin boards, and collections of books and stuffed animals. Some cherished items have been given to students in the last weeks of the school year as rewards for simple achievements. Other items have been shared with her coworkers. She was been extended the special privilege of participating in teacher interviews. It was her sincere hope she would be able to pass many of these things to her successor. At press time, news of the district’s two new kindergarten teachers was not available for publication.

As the school year wound to a close, Holtzapfel was already missing the children. She talked about her attachment to her coworkers at Galion Primary School, saying that losing that everyday close contact and support of her peers will be hard. The increased paperwork required by state regulations will not be missed.

Trips to California and Georgia are in her future, visits to grandchildren – she’s glad one of them lives in nearby Bucyrus. Immediate plans include at least one trip to a beach!

In her leisure time, Dennise enjoys working with Mike and the swim team he coaches. When she’s at home, she enjoys sewing and being crafty. When the children were young, Dennise enjoyed making clothes for them. These days she is challenging herself to learn all the capabilities of her embroidery sewing machine. After retirement, learning to quilt and catching up on her reading will be added to her pastimes.