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Cathy Sullivan retires after 38 years PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kyle Arnoldy   

For nearly four decades, Cathy Sullivan has welcomed kids into her classroom at Holyoke Elementary, but when the children exit the building for summer break Friday, May 24, Sullivan will officially begin her retirement.

“I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that I am not going to be at the school anymore,” Sullivan said. “After all this time, it kind of becomes part of who you are.”

After earning her degree in elementary education with a math minor at the University of Northern Colorado, Sullivan set out to California for an adventure. She accepted a position as a second-grade reading and social studies educator at a private school in Orange County. While there, she also ran the before- and after-school programs.

Sullivan returned to Colorado after a year to be closer to family. Although she began the job hunt during the summer, a difficult time to find teaching positions, she was hired in Holyoke.

Growing up in Colorado Springs, Sullivan stated she had never heard of Holyoke until she began applying for open positions. She laughed as she recalled turning off the interstate at Sterling and beginning the drive on Highway 6. After passing through Fleming and Haxtun, she said she nearly turned around when she hit Paoli.

While the move to Holyoke was a bit of a culture shock, Sullivan says she has come to enjoy the small-town life. More than anything, she appreciates the environment Holyoke offers for raising children.

In her first year of teaching, Sullivan met her husband Steve, a Holyoke native, and they went on to have two kids, Ashley and Jared. Ashley, 26, works at the Holyoke Enterprise, and Jared, 25, has begun work as a mechanical engineer in Golden. Steve runs Sully’s Construction, LLC in Holyoke with his brother Jeff.

Over her 37-year tenure at Re-1J School District, Sullivan taught sixth-grade math, science and social studies for 15 years, fourth grade for seven years and Title I for the final 15 years. Title I is aimed at helping kids who have fallen behind in math and reading.

“I loved sixth grade while I was there, but I needed a little change because you can’t do the same thing forever,” Sullivan explained. “In Title I, we see a variety of kids. I have had kindergarten through sixth grade, which was kind of neat because I had only worked with upper elementary until then. It was nice coming down and working with the younger kids. At first I didn’t think I would like it, but I really have.”

Cathy Sullivan’s 37 years at Holyoke Elementary will come to an end at the conclusion of the school year.

—Enterprise photo

No matter the age or the class, Sullivan enjoyed being able to help kids grow and realize their potential. She noted that as she steps away, it is going to be the students she misses the most.

“I love working with the kids,” Sullivan said. “It is just something new every day. It’s great to see them have their successes and they say and do things that make you smile and laugh everyday.”

Another perk of teaching in a small town is, instead of passing kids to the next grade and forgetting about them, Sullivan was able to see how they continued to succeed as they matured and grew into adulthood. She noted that there are a couple of teachers at HHS that she taught when they were much younger.

Over the past 38 years, Sullivan said she has noticed many changes in the classroom. She pointed to technology as the biggest difference she has seen. Not only has technology changed the way subjects are taught, but changed the ways in which students can respond, do their work and the project possibilities. She also noticed how student dynamics have changed.

“Holyoke has actually changed a lot as far as the kids,” Sullivan explained. “When I first came here it pretty much was the kids that came to kindergarten together graduated together and it was the exact same group, which looking back now, that’s pretty strange. There were kids that moved in and it wasn’t a normal thing to have a new kid in class, so that has kind of changed.”

Sullivan also noticed how some things never change. She joked about how everything cycles around. While exercises may be touted as the newest way to facilitate learning, she said they usually are the same ideas from the past with different names.

For the past three years, Sullivan has been at the elementary school part-time, helping her ease her way into retirement. She said it was the best of both worlds as she had more time off to connect with friends and still was able to see the kids every day.

With even more time off on the horizon, Sullivan said she is interested in looking into genealogy to discover family history. Traveling is also a possibility in the future as well as joining a group of retired teachers who frequently gather for Bible study and other activities.

Holyoke Enterprise May 16, 2013