Heartland Christian School will bid farewell to a veteran educator Wednesday.
Rosie Spangenberg, who has chalked up 46 years in education, has given notice that she will retire at the end of the school year.
She has served as a part-time resource teacher at Heartland Christian since she retired from Lewis Central Community Schools five years ago.
“Over the past five years, she has encouraged numerous students who were struggling in different areas and also pushed those who were excelling to continue to grow,” Executive Director Larry Gray said in a message to Heartland Christian families. “The results have been exceptional! And we know that many young HCS students have been impacted by her care, instruction, and guidance.
“Rosie will be missed at HCS, but because of her pioneer work she has done in the area of resource at HCS, we will always have a place and a teacher to guide those in need of resources at HCS,” he said. “My running joke with all new families has been, if the HCS Board had to start again with one staff member, that member would be Rosie Spangenberg!”
Spangenberg spoke highly of Heartland, too.
“This has been a great place – great kids, great people to work with,” she said. “I will really miss them all.”
Spangenberg was born and raised in Caledonia, Minnesota, a town of about 2,800 residents in the southeast part of the state.
“I went to a parochial school there, so that’s why this was a good fit for me,” she said.
It was Spangenberg’s love of children that drew her to teaching.
“I did a lot of things with kids — babysitting, lifeguard, swim lessons,” she said.
She also volunteered at a grade school while attending Luther College in Decorah.
Spangenberg started her career as a second-grade teacher in Ridgeway, Wisconsin. Since her late husband, Mike, worked for the FDA and was transferred frequently, she also taught second grade and Title 1 reading and math at Dexfield Community Schools, special education at Des Moines Community Schools, and briefly in the Kansas City area. While in the Des Moines area, she earned a master’s degree in reading at Drake University.
She started her 30-year tenure at Lewis Central as an elementary special education teacher and later taught talented and gifted middle school students, then became an instructional strategist. She also taught summer school, coached an Odyssey of the Mind team (similar to quiz bowl) and taught swim lessons at the Lewis Central Pool.
Spangenberg continued to work with children outside of school, too, teaching Sunday school and Vacation Bible School at her church.
“I’ve always worked with kids in one way or another,” she said.
When Spangenberg retired from Lewis Central, she didn’t really have any “big plans,” she said. That led to an invitation she wouldn’t turn down.
“I didn’t live very far from (Heartland Elementary Principal) Justin Steinmetz, and he asked if I wanted to teach at Heartland,” she said.
There, she has worked with students from preschool through ninth grade on reading and math, usually in small groups. She has also found time to volunteer at the Historic General Dodge House and the Arts Center at Iowa Western Community College.
Heartland plans to honor Spangenberg during its end-of-the-year awards ceremony Wednesday, Gray said.
“What a blessing she has been to countless students over the years, but especially to the HCS family the past five years!” he said.
Despite being a proud Minnesotan (who still has a bit of an accent) and a resident and educator in Iowa for the past several decades, Spangenberg plans to move to North Carolina in the near future to be closer to two of her three grandchildren, currently in first and fifth grades.
“This is a big move for me,” she said. “I’m a Midwestern girl.”
But Spangenberg has no family in the Council Bluffs area and says it’s time to move closer to her family. She’s also looking forward to a warmer climate.