Surprise parade honors retiring K-M teacher
The halls of Kasson-Mantorville Elementary School were abuzz Thursday morning as staff and students celebrated K-M’s 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year, Rita Buehler.
She was honored with a surprise parade through the school-- not just for the TOTY award-- but also for her 30-year career in teaching the youngest of the district’s learners. Buehler has taught kindergarten at the school for more than 25 years. She retires at the end of this school year, and will be missed by all.
“Rita Buehler is well respected by her colleagues for her leadership, musical talents, and deep care for children,” said K-M elementary principal Ariana Wright. “It takes a very special educator to spend so many years with our youngest learners in kindergarten. Mrs. Buehler is a gift to the Kasson-Mantorville school district and community.”
Wright added that Buehler was especially adept at assessing each child’s skills and abilities as well as in planning appropriate activities to suit the individual needs of everyone in her care.
“Her care extended to parents as well as they sent their children off to school for the first time,” she said.
Buehler was nominated for Teacher of the Year by her colleagues in the district and was presented with the award at a ceremony attended by friends and family in April. The surprise parade through the halls of K-M Elementary gave staff and students the opportunity to celebrate and recognize Buehler for her dedication to students.
Buehler said she has no definite plans for retirement, except to volunteer with organizations close to her heart.
“God will lead,” she said.
Buehler was born in Chatfield in 1960. She grew up on a farm where the family raised Holsteins and chickens. She is the sixth of eight children and her siblings recall that while they were all content with “playing house,” Rita always wanted to “play school” instead. She was a natural at teaching from a young age.
Later, she earned her degree in Elementary Education and Early Childhood from Winona State University and engaged in long-term substitute teaching assignments until she was hired at Kasson-Mantorville. Apart from a year teaching first grade as well as a year teaching sixth grade, Buehler has spent the majority of her career in a kindergarten classroom.
“Everything is new and exciting to them,” she said about working with kindergarteners. “And they love learning.”
Buehler especially enjoys sharing her musical talents with her students. She plays piano and led a sing-a-long every Friday in the shared space of the kindergarten pod.
“We celebrate birthdays and do color cheers and prepare for the kindergarten spring program,” she said. I heard that it’s important to get children up and moving. That brain research shows when you engage the body, the mind will come along.”
Buehler and other staff members celebrating years of service were recognized by the entire district, including the school board, at a special end of the year luncheon on Monday, June 4.