Three teachers retire after more than 40 years of service

| Jennifer Janikula for The Catholic Spirit | May 21, 2013 | 0 Comments
Teacher Marie Murphy, center, helps seventh-graders Maria Clubb, left, and Kalia Quirk with social studies at Annunciation School in Minneapolis May 20. Murphy, who has taught at the school for 48 years, is retiring at the end of the school year, which is June 7. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Teacher Marie Murphy, center, helps seventh-graders Maria Clubb, left, and Kalia Quirk with social studies at Annunciation School in Minneapolis May 20. Murphy, who has taught at the school for 48 years, is retiring at the end of the school year, which is June 7. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Teachers are collectors — always on the lookout for supplies and resources. As time passes, their collection grows with the thought “maybe I’ll use that next year.”

In June, after more than 40 years, Marie Murphy, Diane Wineman and Jo Culnane will stop collecting. Instead, their colleagues will battle over the treasures they leave behind.

Apparently, retirement does not require a Leprechaun costume, a table full of angels, a deer skull, a baby shark preserved in a jar, a time capsule from Earth Day 1990 or a large collection of windsocks.

Murphy, Wineman and Culnane were hired by their respective schools in the 1960s and felt so welcomed by their colleagues that they never left. All three teachers used humor and high expectations to motivate two generations of students.

High expectations

Marie Murphy will retire June 7 after 48 years of teaching religion and social studies to seventh- and eighth-graders at Annunciation School in Minneapolis.

Teachers and students describe Murphy as demanding, firm and dedicated. They appreciate her sense of humor and her ability to get the best from her students.

“There will never be another Marie Murphy,” said Dianne Brain, Murphy’s teaching partner for the last 20 years. “She is so dedicated to her work. She sets expectations high because she has a vision for each student. They learn to trust her and they go along with her vision until they believe it themselves.”

Murphy set high expectations because she knew from experience that those who expect more usually receive more.

“I don’t expect more than they are capable of — I just feel they needed to be stretched a bit,” she said.

Murphy also admits that a sense of humor is vital when working with middle school students. “Middle school students have their own gifts — one is their ability to entertain their teachers,” she said.

Darcie Mullinax and Beth Sable, current teachers at Annunciation and Murphy’s former students, must have “entertained” Murphy on a regular basis. Both admit they spent lots of time in the hallway.

“As a student, I got in big trouble with Marie. I was pretty sassy as a middle schooler, but I had respect for Marie — she didn’t give in to me,” Mullinax said.

Sable shared a similar story, “When I had her she used to kick me out of class all of the time for talking. She said it would serve my purpose someday. I guess she was right, because now I am a teacher and I get paid to talk all day!”

Other students remember Murphy for her dedication to the Cornell Outline format. The outline provides a way for students to take notes from a textbook. As Murphy explains, “Middle school students need all of the organizational skills they can get.”

Teachers and students will miss the eighth-grade Christmas carolers the most. Each year on the day before Christmas break, Murphy led the eighth-graders through the school, door to door, singing Christmas songs. “I did that with Marie as an eighth-grader and I will miss hearing that each year as a teacher,” Mullinax said.

After 48 years, Murphy “felt a great deal of peace and freedom” when she decided to retire.  She said, “I promised myself that I would continue teaching as long as I laughed more than I cried. It wasn’t even close — there has always been more laughter.”

Inspired service

Diane Wineman will retire on June 6 after 42 years of teaching fourth- and fifth-graders at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Savage.

Teachers and administrators describe Wineman as fair, compassionate and generous.  They appreciate her sense of humor and the way she encourages staff and students to share their time, talent and treasure with others.

For Wineman, St. John’s is so much more than work — it’s the place she met her husband, it’s where her two daughters went to school, and it’s where she takes her grandson to preschool every day.

That connection between work and family, as well as the support of her colleagues, provided a solid foundation for Wineman’s success and longevity as a teacher.

“Diane enjoys her job so much,” said Mike Smalley, principal at St. John’s. “In 42 years, her passion and love for the job have never diminished.”

How did she maintain her passion for her work?

Wineman said the students are the secret. “The kids give you energy and keep you young,” she said.

In addition to the kids, Wineman finds inspiration in memories of her third-grade teacher, Sister Timona.

“At the time, the Notre Dame sisters wore the full habit with big hats and long skirts. We didn’t think they had legs! They seemed to float down the hallway. But Sister Timona had legs. She would jump rope with us during recess. I just adored her. She had enthusiasm for life,” explained Wineman.

Like Sister Timona, Wineman shares enthusiasm with her students. She earns her nickname, Mother Earth, as founder and advisor of the Kids Saving the Earth club. She encourages her students to serve others by providing Christmas gifts, Valentines, Easter baskets, blankets and school supplies to those in need.

Kathy Geis, Wineman’s fifth-grade teaching partner, respects Wineman’s commitment to the students. “She really holds kids accountable for their work and behavior,” Geis said.  “She expects them to achieve and produce and treat each other kindly.”

When summarizing 42 years of teaching, Wineman said, “It’s been an awesome journey.” She admits that retirement won’t hit her until the fall. She plans to give her gardens more attention, travel with her husband and volunteer at the Minnesota Zoo.

If she gets bored during retirement, her co-workers have a few ideas for her. “They thought I could be a valet during the winter — start their cars, brush the snow off, then deliver their warm, clean cars to the door,” Wineman explained. “Either way, I guess I’ll be busy.”

Instilling Catholic values

Jo Culnane will retire June 5 after 44 years of teaching religion, language arts and literature to seventh- and eighth- graders in three Richfield area Catholic schools (St. Peter’s, Assumption and Blessed Trinity). In addition to her classroom duties, Culnane directed 44 plays and edited 44 yearbooks. She will be remembered for her high standards, her witty quotations and her commitment to instilling Catholic values.

Culnane started her teaching career at a public school in Murdock, Minn., in 1942. After two years, she left Murdock and her teaching career behind to get married and start a family.

Fast forward to 1969. Culnane’s family life was busy and fulfilling, but her teaching career began calling to her in the form of Sister Hubert Marie from St. Peter’s Catholic school in Richfield.

“Sister knew about my background and was very impressed, but  I had four kids,” Culnane said. “I was teaching piano lessons, running a Campfire group and doing volunteer work. Sister asked me to come in and teach for just one day. Well, that day turned into 44 years.”

The joy of teaching religion and sharing her faith kept Culnane content in the classroom for four decades.

“We pray, talk about miracles, go to Mass, say a decade of the rosary,” Culnane explained. “We have to do it, it’s the only thing that is important — their relationship with God.”

Brian Stock, Culnane’s former student and current co-worker at Blessed Trinity, said Culnane “incorporates Catholic principles into everything she teaches.”

“She instilled in me Catholic values that I carried with me through high school and college,” he said. “Now, as a teacher, I don’t do that nearly as well as she does, but I try.”

Culnane shares many religious and secular quotations with her students. One of her favorites comes from Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

For Culnane, everything is a miracle, especially her students. “They are so eager to learn,” she said. “There’s so much depth in kids — there’s a lot more to them than you see when you watch them play lacrosse or basketball.”

Blessed Trinity Principal Patrick O’Keefe, explained that Culnane creates a culture that allows her students to become the leaders of their school.

“She expects them to be great people,” he said. “She believes they are great and will do great things.”

So, as Culnane prepares for her last days as a teacher and a future filled with lots of bridge matches, she still has wise words to share: “God gave us all brains. Use yours for the good of the world — make the world a better place.”

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