With the end of the 2016-2017 school year, Trenton Public Schools is bidding farewell to eight longtime teachers who have decided to retire.
The teachers — Lisa Asquini, Peg Church, Claudia Gaynier, Mickey Gardner, Julie Klimushyn, Cheryl May, Mitzi Tascoff and Debbie Thomas — take with them a cumulative total of more than 210 years of classroom experience.
In the profiles that follow, may of them share their favorite experiences and memories of teaching in Trenton, as well as some of their future plans.
Lisa Asquini taught French, language arts and has served as Yearbook advisor at Trenton High School. She taught for 22 years total, including six years teaching French and English for Pontiac Catholic (now Notre Dame Prep) before coming to Trenton. She also worked as a commercial photography studio manager in her husband’s business for 15 years.
She attended the University of Paris-Sorbonne and the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland before graduating from Eastern Michigan University with a double major in French Literature and Language and English and American Literature and Language. She earned her master’s degree in education from Marygrove College. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cooking, travel and cycling with her husband.
“I am happy that I was able to bring six groups of students to France where they stayed with families over spring break and were totally immersed in French language and culture. Many times, school was in session, so students were able to attend and get a glimpse at high school life.”
Asquini shared that she will miss her colleagues and students.
“Being the only French teacher, I have had some students their entire high school career. The camaraderie that develops in a class after being together that long is very special,” she explained. “When I shared my sadness about not having young people to interact with every day, my husband joked that he has been training our neighbors to bow when they see me. But I know they will not hug me and say, ‘I love you, Mrs. Asquini.’ That is what teachers miss when they leave the profession.”
As for her future plans, Asquini plans on doing regular volunteer work in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood, where they have a soup kitchen and a community garden. She also wants to be a regular “helper” in her granddaughter’s kindergarten class in Clarkston, and plans to travel to England and Scotland with her husband.
“All in all, it’s been an honor to work in Trenton the past 16 years. Educators cannot do their job without the support of parents and this is a community which values education and teachers.”
Peg Church retires with more than 27 years as a teacher. The 18 years have been in Trenton. Prior to that, she was with Airport Public Schools for 12 years. She most recently taught third grade at Anderson Elementary School. Through the course of her career, Church taught all of the elementary grades except grade five. She was also a reading recovery teacher for many of those years.
Church earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Toledo. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Toledo as well. Church later earned a reading recovery certification from Western Michigan University. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, fishing, crocheting and golfing.
Claudia Gaynier spent 26 years as a teacher, most recently teaching third grade at Anderson. Before teaching third grade, she also taught second grade, Reading Recovery/Literacy and sixth grade math and science. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and earned her master’s degree in reading from Eastern Michigan University. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family and friends.
As for what she will miss the most about teaching, Gaynier explained that most of all she will miss the kids.
“Teaching is a lot fun. I will also miss the beginning of the school year. I have always looked forward to meeting a new group of students and thinking of creative ways to challenge, support, and guide a new class of young people.” she said.
Gaynier is extremely proud of the students she has had the privilege to teach.
“My wish is that in some way I have had a positive influence on them. I hope that I have fostered in my students a love of learning and the understanding that when you persevere you can accomplish great things.”
As for retirement plans, she is going to relax and enjoy spending time with family and friends.
A 21-year teaching veteran, Mickey Gardner taught third-grade at Anderson Elementary and fourth- and sixth-grade at Owen.
“These last few days of school are somewhat bittersweet,” Gardner said during the final week of school. “Of course I look forward to spending a lot of time helping to watch my grandchildren, camping, reading, riding my bike and many of the other things I haven’t had time to do while working, there are also many things I’ll miss about teaching. Most of all I’ll miss the people. I’ve had the pleasure to work with some truly smart, kind, caring and compassionate teachers and staff. I will miss seeing them every day.”
Gardner graduated with a degree in personnel administration from Michigan State University. After spending several years at home with her children, she returned to school at Eastern Michigan University to earn her teaching certificate and then went on to Marygrove College to earn her master’s degree.
“I’ll also miss the students. I recently pulled out all the class pictures that I’ve saved over the years and fondly remembered so many of the kids I’ve had the pleasure to have in my classroom. I’ll miss sharing in their joy of discovery and accomplishment. I certainly hope to read about their successes in the future.”
In her spare time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her friends and family.
Julie Klimushyn is a 20-year teaching veteran, most recently teaching seventh-grade language arts, choir and theater arts. She previously taught sixth grade language arts, kindergarten, fourth grade, and elementary music.
Klimushyn graduated with a master’s degree in reading remediation and diagnosis from Eastern Michigan University, and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Eastern Michigan University.
In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, pampering her purse dogs and spending time with her three adult children and granddaughters.
Cheryl May has spent 39 years as an educator with Trenton Public Schools, including nine years early on as a teacher tutor. Most recently she taught fifth grade at Hedke and previously taught first grade. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Eastern Michigan University and a master’s degree in early childhood education.
“What I will miss most about teaching is the students! I calculated that I have taught about 900 students in those 39 years!” May said, looking back on her career. “I love when they see me around town and say, ‘Hi Ms. May, do you remember me? You were my first grade teacher at Owen.’ Well, sometimes I do, but honestly most have changed so much since first grade it is difficult to remember them all!”
May has taught at all of the elementary school buildings except for Foley.
“I have been fortunate to work with so many talented teachers. I guess that is another thing I will miss. A few of my teacher friends still get together and that will continue,” said May.
As for the years ahead, she is excited to spend time with her family.
“I have six grandchildren that I love spending time with,” she said. “Four are in Michigan, two are in Oregon, so there will be traveling involved. My own children, Allison and Andrew, are Trenton graduates and the joy of my life. Retirement will mean extra time with them and their families. I look forward to this next chapter in my life!”
Longtime Anderson School third-grade teacher Mitzi Tascoff announced in February that this year would be her last with the school district.
“I have been teaching in Trenton for 35 years, and I am a lifelong resident of Trenton. I even went through this school system myself,” said Tascoff. “I began my teaching career at Hedke Elementary doing a tutoring assistance program. I then taught special education at Monguagon, now known as Arthurs Middle School.”
From there, she was hired to teach the Gifted and Talented at Anderson Elementary, before moving into the third-grade position.
Tascoff graduated with a bachelor’s degree in special education/elementary education from Eastern Michigan University and earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix.
During her time within Trenton schools, Tascoff was involved with several committees, which included the school improvement/district accreditation committee (since its inception), held the role of the school improvement chair for Anderson Elementary School (20 years), and numerous curriculum committees within the district.
“Working with our own professional learning community in our building has been a most rewarding experience. I have loved the people that I have worked with and will miss them,” said Tascoff.
Tascoff said she had no immediate specific retirement plans — other than take some time to play golf, be with friends, travel, read, and whatever else comes to mind.
Tascoff said that she will miss the students and engaging them in the learning process and seeing them grow. She also said that she will miss working on the committees she served for several years and her amazing colleagues.
“I have witnessed so many wonderful changes in Trenton throughout my career, and have been proud to work with such an astounding group of educators who strive every day for the betterment and success for all students,” Tascoff said. “I would like to just express my sincere appreciation to the students, colleagues, administrators and the administration that I have worked with throughout my years in Trenton. I have had many mentors who influenced me both professionally and personally, and I consider myself very fortunate to have been an educator in the Trenton Public School system. I will look back on my career in Trenton with the fondest of memories and deepest gratitude for a fulfilling and rewarding career.”
Anderson fifth-grade teacher Debbie Thomas concludes her career with 27 ½ years experience. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and earned her master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University.
“The one thing I will miss the most about teaching is the students,” Thomas said. “I enjoy talking with kids and getting to know them. I also enjoy creating lessons that my students are excited about and putting together projects that students look forward to doing each year.”
The accomplishment Thomas is most proud of is implementing Science Camp into the fifth-grade curriculum.
“It all started because I wanted my students to learn about science in an outdoor educational setting. Over the years, I have incorporated social studies and team-building skills into their camp experience,” she said. “The students have attended YMCA Storer camp and now attend Camp Michindoh. This program has been possible due to the parents who have graciously volunteered their time to be camp chaperones. The students love camp and I am very happy it will continue after I retire.”
Out of all the special memories she has from teaching, camp is at the top of the list.
“I really enjoyed seeing the students bond together, helping each other, cheering for each other, and becoming part of a team. New friendships were made and I saw the students accomplish things that they didn’t think they could do.”
She plans to spend her spare time with her family, friends and going to her daughter’s sporting events.
Article compiled and written by Eric Hoshaw and Denise Sobh.