MINNEAPOLIS -- It's safe to say that Lana Reinhart and Linda Willoughby are dedicated to their students.
The two USD 239 North Ottawa County teachers will have 64 years between them when they retire at the end of the current school year.
In Reinhart's case, USD 239 is the only district she has worked for since graduating from Emporia State University in 1984.
Willoughby took a slightly different path. She began her career by operating the Sugar and Spice Preschool for 10 years before moving to USD 239.
On May 23, from 1-3 p.m., the families of the two teachers will have a retirement reception for them. The reception is scheduled to be in the Minneapolis Jr/Sr High School lobby, and is open to the public, according to information from the two teachers' families.
Following is career information about the two teachers as provided by their families.
After graduating from Emporia State University in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science degree in business education, the then Lana Waetzig of Topeka accepted her first job to teach at Minneapolis High School. Little did she know, 37 years later, she would be retiring from the same school she started her career in. During her tenure at USD 239, Reinhart has been under the leadership of four superintendents, eight principals, taught in numerous classrooms (even the blue building that was located in the parking lot behind the cafeteria), traveled to Delphos Attendance Center to teach, saw the MHS mascot change to the “Power Lion,” and saw multiple renovations and additions to the school’s physical building. She has been a member of the KNEA more than 15 years and served as co-negotiator for two years.
Reinhart has educated thousands of students during her career in many different classes. Some of those classes include Accounting 1 and 2, Gregg Shorthand, Forkner Shorthand, Office Practices, Lion Pride Connect Class, The Real-Life Game, Business Law, Business Math, Business Life Skills, Economics, Marketing, Personal Finance, Jr. High Keyboarding, and Entrepreneurship. She also taught a Web Design class where the students were responsible for writing articles and maintaining the school website.
“While many subjects have not changed a lot in 37 years, Mrs. Reinhart has spent her career keeping up with the technology needs of the business curriculum and adapting to the changing demand of the workforce needs. Almost every year we are adding technology, software, or content that Mrs. Reinhart has to learn before teaching it the next year,” said Terry Moeckel, principal of MJ/SHS.
Reinhart was the co-head Pep Club sponsor during her earlier years at Minneapolis. She helped form the S.A.D.D. (Students Against Driving Drunk) chapter at Minneapolis High School, which won the “Best New Chapter” award. It was the largest club/organization at the school. S.A.D.D. held a yearly New Year’s Eve all-night lock in for the students, jello-wrestling tournaments, hay rack rides and movie nights at the Lindsey one-room schoolhouse. They also attended student retreats at Rock Springs Ranch. It was very important to Reinhart to provide a positive and safe environment where students could have fun. Later in her career, she was the head coach of the MHS Scholars Bowl team, where she enjoyed seeing just how smart the students are!
While Reinhart is looking forward to a retirement with no papers to grade and no teacher inservices to attend, she cherishes the millions of memories made in the halls of Minneapolis Jr/Sr High School and will forever be a Lion.
Linda Willoughby will be retiring from teaching after serving the youth of Ottawa County for almost 40 years. She began her career running Sugar and Spice Preschool out of the basement of her residence in Minneapolis for a decade before moving to USD 239 where she taught for 27 years.
Willoughby spent 22 years of her career teaching middle school science at both Delphos Attendance Center and Minneapolis Junior Senior High School. Her passion for teaching science was evident. She also coached the Science Olympiad team where her dedication to her students and coaching was demonstrated by the superior performance of her teams year after year. During those 22 years, her teams qualified for state 20 times, placed third once, second seven times, and first an additional four times. In her final year as Science Olympiad coach, her team won regionals, medaling in nine of their 10 events, and finished fifth at state in the small school division.
“Mrs. Willoughby has the perfect mindset for middle school science. She keeps the students engaged with so many different labs and activities making the learning an active process that junior high kids really are geared for,” Moeckel said.
Dogs have always been an important part of Willoughby’s life and one of the ways she was able to connect with her students on a deeper level. She trained two Labrador service dogs, Sadie and Tillie, who spent time in her science classrooms comforting students, providing them with motivation to work hard, and improving their confidence. Willoughby plans to spend her retirement years following her grandchildren’s activities, training dogs, and traveling the country to dog shows.
Willoughby’s commitment to her students went beyond just teaching and coaching. She spent many hours working with her students at the Minneapolis Community Gardens and Owl’s Project. For years, Willoughby organized a special Fall Fest for the Delphos Attendance Center students where they had guest speakers and spent time learning about different businesses in Minneapolis and the Owl’s Project. After Sept. 11, 2001, she helped organize a recognition of local first responders and brought in a Black Hawk Helicopter for the community to tour as part of the Fall Fest activities. During her summers, she served the youth of Ottawa County by starting the Red Cross Swimming Program and providing lessons for well over a decade. Her dedication to the youth of the community was always evident.
In 2017, Willoughby was nominated and received the local VFW Teacher of the Year Award presented to a teacher each year for outstanding commitment to teaching citizenship to students. She went on to win the VFW Regional Award and State Teacher of the Year Award for her activities working with local youth over the years.