Retirees look back on careers in education

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Longtime music teacher Jolene Kubli, left, is recognized by her friend and co-worker Christine Melde at the district’s retirement tea earlier this week. Kubli’s 41 years in education are coming to an end this year.

While kids all over Central Iowa are gearing up for another summer break, a group of longtime educators is set to say goodbye to their classrooms. Not for summer, but for good.

Each spring, education veterans call it a career and move on with the next step in their lives, and this year is no different. However, some are still concentrating on getting their students to the finish line this semester.

“I think, at the end of the school year, it’s just like every other year,” said Lenihan Intermediate School sixth grade teacher and 34-year educator Leah Mattox. “I think it will be strange in the fall.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Marshalltown High School teacher Mike Loupee, who will retire after 29 years of teaching and coaching swim team.

“We’re at the end of the year crunch, trying to cover content and keep the kids engaged,” he said. “People ask me if I’m counting down, and I’m really not. I’m trying to enjoy the kids and keep them on track and have a good finish.”

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Mike Loupee is retiring after 29 years in coaching and education.

Like Mattox, Loupee said reality will likely hit hard come August, when his kids and wife, Marshalltown High School teacher Rachel Nelson-Loupee, return to classes.

One of the longest-serving educators to retire this year will be K-4 music teacher Jolene Kubli, who has spent 41 years in the profession.

“I just enjoyed singing and participating and doing folk dancing, and that was just a joy in my life, that was my passion,” she said. “I wanted other students to have that experience, and the one thing that’s been kind of cool is meeting and teaching children of my former students.”

Over four decades, Kubli said she’s had many chances to meet the kids of her former students.

“In fact, I have three girls right now whose mother I had at West Marshall. It’s a set of twins and another sister, and they look just like mom,” she said.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Leah Mattox’s 34 years in education are coming to an end as this school year wraps up.

Future plans

Even as they are still busy getting through their last semester of school, the teachers each said they have plans for what they’ll do with all that free time in retirement.

Mattox said she will try to keep busy somehow, maybe by helping with a family member’s business.

Loupee has put a fair amount of thought into his plans.

“My first thought is I am always running around doing something, so for the first few weeks in August and September, I am going to take time for myself,” he said. “I’m going to ride the bike trail, I’m going to go to the Y and swim, read and just kind of take an extended recharge time.”

After that, Loupee said he hopes to keep in touch with his colleagues and students as a substitute teacher and coach. He also hopes to go on scuba diving adventures across the world.

Kubli said she and her husband are going to have a new start in Colona, where her husband will work at a local church.

“I haven’t decided what I’ll do, whether I’ll do anything part-time or subbing. It’s just kind of uncertain right now,” she said. “I will just kind of see what doors will open.”

What they’ll miss

Being in education for several decades has its highs and lows, its stressful times. But all of the teachers said they will miss their work in retirement.

“I’ve really enjoyed being able to meet so many different kids. I’ve worked, just here in Marshalltown, with over 3,500 kids. I don’t even know how many students that calculates to over my whole career,” Kubli said. “Getting the chance to work with the kids and have them make beautiful music has been very rewarding.”

Her career has also taken her to West Marshall, LaVerne and Baxter school districts.

Mattox said she was proud of the collaboration she helped build between Lenihan and the Marshalltown Public Library. She hopes that tradition will continue after she leaves.

“I’ve been really involved with migrant tutoring, and I have loved the diverse culture in Marshalltown,” Mattox said. “I’ve learned so much from those kids.”

Prior to Marshalltown, Mattox taught in Council Bluffs, Ottumwa and South Tama.

Loupee said he, too, will miss the interactions with students every day during his time at Baxter and Marshalltown schools. He shared one recent example that serves as a “microcosm” of what he’s loved about teaching.

“I’m lecturing today and a kid that struggles, doesn’t classically do well, walked out and said ‘This was a really fun lesson today, Mr. Loupee,'” he said. “It keeps you young. I’m retiring, but I don’t feel old at all.”

He said he will also miss his colleagues.

“There are some really great people walking around the halls of this high school,” he said.