If Tina Harkness’ third-graders are any indication, Carlson Elementary students will miss Rita Williamson, the school’s secretary, and Principal Marcia Jochim next school year. The two are …
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If Tina Harkness’ third-graders are any indication, Carlson Elementary students will miss Rita Williamson, the school’s secretary, and Principal Marcia Jochim next school year.
The two are retiring this summer after a combined 75 years in education.
“(Williamson) is a nice lady, and I’m sad she’s leaving,” third-grader Reina Murrieta Clark said.
Classmate Blake Sigward said he likes Jochim, commenting, “I’m cool with her and she’s cool with me. We’re friends.”
Blake said Jochim helped him with a bully on the playground last year, and Reina and classmate Phebe Flenniken both recalled Williamson’s kindness, especially when they were injured.
Harkness also said she’s grateful to both Williamson and Jochim for all they’ve contributed to Carlson and the Clear Creek School District, describing both women as helpful and hard-working.
Williamson started working at Carlson 22 years ago, and has held several jobs at the school in that time. She’s been an instructional assistant, a kindergarten aide and — for the past 12 years — a secretary in the front office.
“I love this job,” she said. “I love working with the kids and parents.”
Once she retires from Carlson this summer, she will stay in the area for another year or so, she estimated. However, long-term, she wants to spend more time with her children and grandchildren in Montana, Virginia and Texas.
Williamson said she will miss working at Carlson, describing how she enjoyed being in a small community and getting to know all the families.
She especially liked working as a kindergarten aide, saying it was her favorite job at Carlson.
“The kids used to come in not knowing how to use scissors, and by the end, they’re reading and writing,” she continued.
Williamson said she really hopes whoever succeeds her as secretary likes the job, as it involves wearing a lot of hats, so to speak.
Both Jochim and Harkness described Williamson as someone who’s always willing to lend a helping hand, with Harkness stating, “She’s the person I’ve been able to go to who knows the answers to everything.”
Loraine Swartz, the school’s instructional coach/librarian who was named Carlson’s new principal last week, said Williamson has been a wonderful connection to the community.
Swartz and Jochim particularly praised Williamson’s compassion, saying she always takes care of Carlson’s teachers and ensures new staff members feel welcome. Plus, Jochim added, she has a real nice way with children.
“The only time I didn’t want to come to work was the day I knew she would be absent,” Jochim continued.
Jochim’s first job in education was as an art teacher at 20 years old.
Since then, she’s been a teacher and then principal in California, Idaho and Colorado for a combined 53 years. Before arriving at Carlson, she was principal at Bergen Valley Elementary School and King-Murphy Elementary School, both in Evergreen.
“In every place I’ve worked, I’ve learned something,” she said.
During her 13 years as Carlson’s principal, Jochim said she’s loved working with everyone. The staff members are dedicated, the students are resilient, and the parents are supportive, she described.
Plus, the community has been incredible in supporting Carlson’s various projects, including donating thousands of dollars to the school’s new playground, which she said remains a highlight from her time as principal.
Once she retires, Jochim is looking forward to gardening, camping and fishing more. Also, her first grandchild is only a few weeks old, so she hopes to spend more time with her family.
Williamson and Harkness both described Jochim as an excellent principal who supports staff and students. Harkness, who first worked with Jochim at King-Murphy, said she’s been a leader who empowers others to use their strengths and who works with her staff side-by-side.
“She’s an elegant lady who’s tough,” Harkness continued. “She loves to learn, and that helps us (teachers) to want to learn. too.”
Swartz commented that Jochim is leaving big shoes to fill and that she’s grateful for her mentorship.
“I’m thankful for her helping me grow my leadership skills,” she said. “ … I’m overjoyed with the opportunity to lead our school.”
Ultimately, both Williamson and Jochim said it’s been a privilege and an honor to have worked at Carlson for so many years with such amazing people.
“Altogether,” Williamson said, “it’s been wonderful.”
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