Judy Lueken and Kayla Ramsey don’t work as bottle cappers in a brewery, and they don’t hang out at a place called the Pizza Bowl. But after 25 years of working side by side in the fifth and sixth grade wing of Edgewood-Colesburg Elementary School in Colesburg, they may be the unofficial “Laverne and Shirley” of the building. Lueken and Ramsey are retiring at the end of this school year.
Lueken has taught for 28 years, all at Ed-Co. Ramsey has taught at Ed-Co for the past 29 years, after four years of teaching at Manning.
Lueken graduated from Ed-Co in 1976. “This is bittersweet,” she admitted. “This is home for so many ways. I’ve been in this system for 50 years of my life. This place has great kids and great communities.”
Lueken enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa, but put her degree on hold while she married and raised her family. After three years of teaching junior kindergarten, she’s been teaching fifth grade language arts and social studies for the last 25 years.
“From the time I was in fourth grade with my favorite teacher, Kathryn Lucy, I knew someday I wanted to be a teacher,” she said.
“When you are a teacher, it’s all about the kids and relationships. You learn how to reach them. What works for one bunch doesn’t necessarily work for another.”
Lueken said her class this year loves to learn. “It’s wonderful for my last year to be with such a great group. They are interested in the world and want to learn.”
She called teaching a lifelong commitment, saying, “What I do is not a job. Kids make learning fun. If someone is going into teaching, it can’t be seen as a job.”
With 10 grandchildren, Lueken said she has some catching up to do. “This feels like the right time to retire. I have a lot going on in my life. The grandchildren are all in sports. I’ve also got a garden I want to spend some time in. I will get to do some of the things I’ve been putting off for a while.”
Ramsey called retiring, “definitely the hardest decision of my life. I really struggled with it.”
She and Lueken began teaching in the same wing 25 years ago. She said a colleague suggested the pair go out arm-in-arm like Laverne and Shirley.
“With my partner of 25 years retiring, it seems like the right thing to do,” Ramsey explained. “When I emailed the staff of my decision, I included a clip of the show’s theme song.”
Ramsey said she enjoys teaching science to upper elementary students. “It’s fun to see how kids can relate science more and more to their lives.”
She believes a good teacher shares some qualities. “I think a teacher should have enthusiasm to learn, should challenge themselves and they should really think critically.”
Ramsey will split her time between Edgewood and Iowa City, where she will be close to her daughters, her mom, and her sister and brother-in-law. She has a part-time job in the Iowa City area a couple days a week.
Her advice to new teachers is simple. “Build relationships with the kids, take it a day at a time and do your best. You can make a difference.”
Ramsey reflected on her career at Ed-Co. “The people here are more like family than co-workers. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”