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Retiring teacher is ‘all business’
By By Alica P. Thiele
Challenger reporter

April 29. 2013 7:37AM
Her students consistently have been the top performers in Brandon Elementary’s first grade, Brandon Elementary Principal Merle Horst said. So now that Jeanne Lens is retiring, there are some big shoes to fill.

“One thing about Mrs. Lens. Any student who has been in her classroom, they are ready for second grade,” he said.

“She’s all business,” Brandon Elementary secretary Sandy Cummings said of Lens. But readers must not get the impression that Lens is a knuckle-rapping shrew. Quite the contrary. The petite, soft-spoken teacher is well liked. Cummings’ daughter had Lens for third grade and loved her, she said.

Lens is the only teacher retiring from Brandon Elementary this year. She has been with the school for 16 years – this time.

She originally taught at Brandon Valley for 11 ½ years, the first semester of that as a student teacher at Valley Springs Elementary in the fall of 1979. During that first stint, she taught Title 1 math, kindergarten, junior first grade and third grade.

Her husband’s job transfer took the family to Great Falls, Mont., for four years before they returned to Brandon to be closer to extended family.

Lens has taught many siblings over the years, and she’s even taught the children of some of her students. She said that is one of the good things about working in a district the size of Brandon Valley. “It’s nice to know the families,” she said.

Over the years, she has seen changes in what children are taught at the ripe old age of 6. “Most of them are reading now, before they come to first grade,” she said. Her first graders even learn some basic algebra, such as both sides of an equation have to be equal.

“It’s a year of a lot of learning,” she said. She likes to see the progress her students make as the school year progresses. For example, their reading skills “are probably the biggest jump they make in their school career,” she said.

Like many classrooms, Lens’ room is filled with learning aids, from posters of the alphabet to live plants, to books. Much of it belongs to her personally, but she will leave some behind. She already has started to take some items home, though.

Lens has wanted to be a teacher from as far back as she can remember. “I have always loved kids, and I babysat throughout high school and college,” she said.

But this year seemed to be a good year to turn in the chalk and red pencil, and take some time for herself. She and her husband, Mike, would like to visit their children. Their son, Tim, is a certified public accountant in Omaha, and their daughter, Amanda, is a 911 dispatcher in Minneapolis. “We (also) want to see things we haven’t had the time to see,” she said.
Mike Lens is a feed salesman for Land O’Lakes. Even though he has no plans to retire at this time, he encouraged his wife to retire, she said.

“Teaching has been a very rewarding career, but it takes a lot of time outside of the classroom to do your best,” she said. “I look forward to having nights and weekends without correcting papers, planning or searching for new ideas and techniques to enhance my teaching.”

She said she will miss the daily smiles, hugs, challenges and “the light bulbs that go off in my first-graders’ heads.”

But she is looking forward to relaxing on her new deck, gardening and spending more time with family and friends. Perhaps she’ll find a part-time job, she said.

Horst said he probably will have Lens’ replacement chosen this week. The choice then must be approved by the school board.

Jeanne Lens is retiring this year from Brandon Elementary, where she teaches first grade. Photo by Alica P. Thiele

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