The end of the school year always brings lots of changes. Children can put down their heavy backpacks and take a breather before getting into their summer reading and fun.

But the changes aren’t just for the children. For some teachers in Riverside District 96, it also means packing away the tools of a lifetime in teaching to begin another phase in their lives.

At the district’s recent annual employee recognition dinner, staff were honored for their years of service, and six teachers were bid a fond farewell as they leave the hallowed halls of the grade schools. With more than 150 combined years of dedicated service, the teachers prepared to leave the profession they have so loved.

Gail Bieschke who has worked as the district’s librarian for 20 years, will now have some time for reading for herself.

“I have always told the students I have the best job in the school,” Bieschke said.

She is joined in her sentiments by Cindy Ekstrom, who has brought the joy of art to her students. According to Colleen Lieggi, principal at Ames School, much of Ekstrom’s art is adorning many homes.

Carol Gober has been a familiar face at both Central and Blythe Park schools for 37 years. Students at Blythe Park and Hauser will miss Penny Loulousis, who is completing 21 years, and Carol Murphy has seen many students come and go at Ames School where she taught for 31 years.

“[Murphy] has been a leader in the building, really a rock,” Lieggi said.

Blythe Park teacher MaryAnn Roberts for the past 23 years has taught the same grade, fifth grade – in the same classroom – and has seen a lot of faces come through the door.

Murphy summed up her years in the district, saying, “I have been fortunate to work with wonderful families and great colleagues.”

Yes, there will be some changes when the schools open up for the next school year. There will be renovated buildings, students who are starting school for the first time and teachers who will be new to the district, ones who have been inspired by those who taught before them.

What will not be gone is the spirit of six teachers who will be remembered for the lessons taught and the lessons learned.