After 40 years in the Osseo School District and working 21 school district sites, Maple Grove resident and Principal Gretchen Peel will retire in June.
“While her most recent service has been as principal at the award winning Weaver Lake Elementary, she’s also had a variety of other roles over the years,” District 279 Superintendent Kate Maguire said at the April 17 School Board meeting, highlighting Peel’s roles as a teacher, speech pathologist and interim assistant superintendent.
“It is no understatement to say Gretchen has had a significant impact on the culture and climate of our school district and that she’s helped to influence where we are today,” Maguire said. “On behalf of the school board and the cabinet team, I want to say it has been an honor and a privilege to serve the students of District 279 along side of you.”
40 Years of Changes
A lot has changed during Peel’s career as an educator in District 279 – including her job title. She started as a speech therapist for multiple schools in the district, later moving onto several leadership roles including her final one as principal of Weaver Lake Elementary – A Science, Math and Technology magnet school in Maple Grove.
One of the most obvious changes during her time at District 279 has been technology, which has grown by “leaps and bounds” from the early days of using filmstrips, Peel said in a Patch interview.
One of the biggest changes during her time in the district, she said, has been parent choice for schools.
"It used to be you were in a neighborhood, you were assigned to school and your kids went there. You didn’t give it a second thought – that’s where they went,” Peel said. The school choice movement started in Minnesota started with open enrollment, according to Peel and continued with charter schools and private school growth.
“Parent choice has become huge. I think it’s been good for schools. We really have to define who we are and ask ‘What do we do here? What will your child get in their life – learning, personal growth, educational growth and as a person by coming to our school?’ I think parents are asking that question and I think it’s great,” she said.
Looking back on her time in the Osseo School District, Peel's individual highlights and career defining moments span over the four decades. She talked about her time as a speech therapist, often working with the same students for multiple years.
“I think about the impact they had on me and how much I learned from them. Also, the feedback I received from families and the help I gave their students and family,” she said. “I can still think of individuals I had. Just the other day, I was thinking about a kindergartner I had at Garden City [Elementary] and some of the things I did with him, positive feedback I received from his mom."
Her time as a speech therapist, working with preschool to high school age students, was a “defining” time during her career.
“The opportunity to see what was happening in educating kids, the different levels of maturity and growth in kids - to see that as a teacher has been invaluable,” she said.
Her work with children has also earned her several recognitions in recent years, including being named and leading Weaver Lake Elementary to receive a and .
Peel reflected on the teachers she has worked with over the years “at every level who have been incredibly dedicated and caring about kids.”
“I’ve seen it over and over again – how dedicated teachers and staff members are to making sure kids are safe, learning and taken care of,” she said.
Administrators such as former Principal Bill Tessman, Superintendents Susan Hintz and Kate Maguire as well as several special education directors were cited as well.
“What it boils down to is the people – the kids, the parents, the colleagues,” Peel said. “It’s the relationships that you build that are most defining.”
After 40 years of working in the Osseo School District, Peel says making the decision to retire was “difficult."
“I absolutely love what I do,” she said. “I love the enthusiasm here. I love watching the kids learn. I love our parents, the kids and the staff. It’s a fabulous job. But, it’s also been 40 years.”
She says Weaver Lake is in a “great place” to hand off to someone else. Current Basswood Elementary Principal Dennis Palm has been named as the new Weaver Lake Elementary Principal starting the 2012-2013 school year.
Peel's family, consisting of husband Jon and children Emily and Nate, have been “very supportive” of her decision to retire, she said. As for life after June 30, 2012, Peel is looking forward to “dusting off” some of her past passions and new opportunities.
“There are so many things that I’m interested in that I want to do and retirement is an opportunity to do that, both personally and professionally,” she said, stating she might be looking at some part time professional opportunities. Personally, she hopes to take classes, possibility picking up the violin again and traveling.
“There’s places I want to go in this world and see and now, I don’t have to wait for spring break,” she said, laughing.
Have a memory or moment to share about Gretchen Peel? Share it in comments!