MISSOULA, Mont. - The school year at Hellgate Elementary in Missoula is winding down, along with the career of four long-time educators at the school. Three teachers and the school's principal are retiring this year with more than 100 years combined teaching experience.
Candy Johnson, the school principal, will be retiring after 39 years at the school. Connie O'Conner has been at Hellgate for 37 years, Chris Martinsen for 23 and Colleen Cooper has been there for 30 years.
"When they walk out that door, it's more than just losing an employee. It's losing a member of the family; a valued member of the family that not only hurts their colleagues and impacts their colleagues, but it really impacts the kids and the families as well," said Hellgate Elementary Superintendent Doug Reisig.
Over the years, these four educators have touched the lives of a number of students, and that is what they are going to miss most about their careers with the school.
"It's wonderful to be around these young people and to watch them learn and see the trends in education that are so great," said Hellgate Elementary Principal Candy Johnson.
While one chapter in their lives closes, a new one opens. They say that they are excited for what comes next and ready for a chance to pursue other hobbies and passions in life.
"Like I tell my kindergarteners, I am going to recess and I'm not coming in when the bell rings, so just it's time for me to go out and play," said Connie O'Conner.
Reising says that the school district has already replaced the teachers for the following school year.