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Long-time kindergarten teacher teaches last class at Wauneta-Palisade PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Friday, 29 May 2015 21:37

Keri Sutherland, pictured here helping former students with a game during Elementary Field Day last Tuesday, taught Kindergarten classes at Wauneta-Palisade Schools for 18 years. Last week was her final at WPS. (Sheri Hink-Wagner | The Wauneta Breeze)


By Sheri Hink-Wagner

The Wauneta Breeze

Long-time Wauneta-Palisade kindergarten teacher Keri Sutherland has taught her last class of Broncos. Sutherland has made a tough decision and decided to move on with her teaching career after an 18 year stay at WP.

Sutherland started teaching at Wauneta-Palisade in 1997. But, even before that she had family ties to Wauneta, despite not growing up here. Her grandfather, Cal Sutherland, was the superintendent for Wauneta Public Schools in the 50s and 60s.

Sutherland attended high school in Valentine and then graduated from Kearney High School. After college she taught early childhood education for a couple years in Kearney before accepting her position in Wauneta. She said she chose to apply at WP because she’d always wanted to teach at a small school.

When she started WP had two Kindergarten classrooms, one in Palisade and one in Wauneta. Seven years ago the district combined the classrooms into one. With exception of the past three years, Sutherland has always taught at the Wauneta Attendance Center.

When asked about fond memories from her years of teaching at WP, Sutherland said they were too numerous to relate them all. However, one class that stood out in her mind was the one that just graduated from WP.

She said she remembers “being terrified to have an all-girl class” and said it was the first time she was ever nervous about the start of the school year.

However, she said, “They were so much fun!” The all-girl class was dubbed the “Little Madelines” after the show the girls all enjoyed.

Sutherland says she will leave the district with many fond memories. “I love Wauneta-Palisade,” said Sutherland.

Her coworkers are some of the best around, “We’re like a close-knit family. It always has been that way here,” Sutherland explained.

She feels lucky to have taught so many years where she was able to get to know each child.

“I’ve known every child I’ve taught personally. In some cases I was friends with their parents and knew many of them as babies,” explained Sutherland.

In addition, Sutherland is proud to have her two children, Christopher and Tyler Crowell, in the ranks of WP graduates. Her boys were in first and second grades when they first moved to Wauneta.

She went on to say it was an honor to, “See students from the day they walked into the school until they graduated.” Sutherland said 90 percent of her students would come back to her classroom, long after leaving kindergarten, to get a “thumbody.” Thumbodies were little smiley faces drawn on a student’s thumb while in kindergarten to signify that he or she had a good day at school.

“A thumbody became a huge thing,” said Sutherland.

She’s developed many traditions over the years. For a time elementary classrooms were identified by color. Kindergarten was the “red” classroom. As a result, Sutherland has hundreds of lady bug items from using them in her classroom. Eventually the classroom’s name changed from the Ladybugs to the Kinderbugs, but red ladybugs stayed as a theme in the Sutherland classroom.

Also thanks to the red theme, Clifford the Big Red Dog has had a place in the kindergarten classroom. Sutherland said he’s always been the classroom mascot. She had a stuffed Clifford toy that would go home with all the class members in turn. “He’s been allover,” Sutherland said. Clifford has been so well-loved through the years that she is now on her fifth Clifford toy.

Throughout the years, Sutherland said she’s seen many changes in the school. When she first started teaching at WP, kindergarten was taught very differently. It was very play-based, as opposed to today’s academic base.

However, through the years Sutherland said, “I’ve always tried to be their personal cheerleader and teach them to help each other.”

The next step in Sutherland’s teaching career will be to teach kindergarten in the Ogallala Public School system.