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Madison Metropolitan School District

Stephens Elementary Celebrates Retiring, Longtime Teachers

Four outgoing teachers at Glenn Stephens Elementary School are retiring this summer, bringing plenty of memories, gratitude, and advice with them–all gathered during a combined 103 years of teaching at the elementary school.

Jill Hayes (22 years), Jamie Mawhinney (28 years), Deborah Steinhoff (27 years), and Susan Stevens (26 years) have taught hundreds of scholars each at Stephens. 

“I am so proud to have worked with so many strong caring talented educators,” Principal Sarah Galanter-Guziewski said. “They have made Glenn Stephens a place where people want to bring their own kids and to educate the kids of our community.”

The four teachers said witnessing student growth was one of the biggest joys of teaching across their careers, made possible by their relationships with the entire Stephens community. 

“I introduce new concepts to the kindergartners and their families. I build trust,” Hayes said. “Students and families all become more and more comfortable, and I believe when children and their families are comfortable–and they trust me–five and six year olds can learn anything!”

Steinhoff and Stevens both commented on the importance of collaborating with other teachers and school staff to provide the best learning experience.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the professional collaborations with colleagues: planning, solving problems, finding solutions for students with specific challenges, overcoming the obstacles of Covid,” Steinhoff said. “Working together provides the strongest opportunities to meet all students where they are in order to best promote learning.”

“I have worked with a great staff that has always been willing to put in the extra effort to support our students,” Stevens added.

Across her decades-long career, one of the most impactful memories for Mawhinney was teaching calming strategies to her second-grade student, who had a difficult home life.

“After several weeks of talking, listening, and practicing these strategies, she came to school and said, ‘It's helping!’” Mawhinney said. “She proceeded to give me a handwritten note that said, ‘thank you for keeping my heart together. I love you!’ This is a memory I will cherish forever.”

While choosing only one impactful memory from her 27-year career is nearly impossible, Steinhoff’s annual multilingual celebration stands out. She invited parents to bring a children’s book written in their native language, and read it aloud to the class.

“Families who might otherwise feel hesitant to share, always felt proud to share in their home languages, and students felt so proud to have families sharing something so personal,” Steinhoff said. 

Before enjoying sleeping in, spending time with grandkids, and traveling during retirement, Hayes, Stevens, and Mawhinney all offered similar pieces of advice to new teachers: Prioritize what’s best for your students, and always model expectations for them. 

Steinhoff added that new teachers should ask for support from colleagues and family when needed–which is leading her to stay connected to Stephens and MMSD by mentoring new teachers to help them adopt a balance in their work and wellness. 

“Their expertise and focus has helped educate so many students and student teachers,” Galanter-Guziewski said. “I personally have learned from them as a leader as well they will be missed.”

Teacher Jill Hayes stands outside Stephens Elementary School
Teacher Susan Stevens stands outside Stephens Elementary School
Teacher Jamie Mawhinney stands outside Stephens Elementary School
Teacher Deborah Steinhoff stands outside Stephens Elementary School