Kansas teacher looks back at nearly 4 decades of teaching as she prepares to retire

Kansas

WICHITA (KSNT) – Fresh out of college at 22 years old, Donna Lee found her home away from home at McLean Elementary in Wichita.

“It’s a little small wonderful school that’s like a family,” the first-grade teacher said.

Lee has been a loyal teacher to McLean for the last 37 years.

“It’s just been so nice to be here, there was no reason to ever leave a place like this.”

After nearly four decades of teaching first grade, Lee is ready to retire.

“My first class is 43-years-old,” she said. “We didn’t even have computers. I mean, I think all those kids have turned out nicely but I feel sorry for whoever I had in my first class.”

Over the years, Lee has taught more than 800 students, even teaching some family generations. There is one particular bonding that stands out from Lee’s time at McLean, fellow first-grade teacher, Joann Randall.

“Mrs. Randall has her class, and I have my class, but really we’re the McLean first grade. We do a lot together,” Lee said.

The duo is known as the McLean Dream Team by some. They have taught first grade together for 31 years.

“We do work really well together, we just figured out how to make it work and make our lives a little bit easier and take care of each other,” Randall said.

“It’s not just our school lives, it’s our outside of school lives too,” Lee added.

Lee is looking back on her time in the classroom as challenging but also very rewarding.

“They come in with a little bit of knowledge, but by golly, by the end of first grade, they are these little independent, responsible readers, mathematicians.”

Lee has 12 days left in the classroom. She expects retirement to sink in next fall when she does not return to the classroom.

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