Two elementary principals retire
Today is the last day of school for thousands of District 51 students as well as Appleton Elementary Principal Mark Schmalz and Orchard Avenue Elementary Principal Denise Hoctor.
Both principals will retire June 13 and have no plans to spend retirement relaxing. Each has secured a teaching position for the fall in Mesa State College’s teacher education department.
Schmalz, 49, has climbed every mountain in Colorado that rises above 14,000 feet and plans to spend this summer climbing 20 peaks above 13,000 feet to achieve his goal of climbing all 637 “13ers” in the state.
Hoctor, 54, will also work for the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, and wants to take a silversmithing class.
Hoctor has been principal of Orchard Avenue since 1994 and has worked in education for 34 years. She taught special education students at Thunder Mountain, Clifton and Tope elementary schools before becoming an assistant principal at Shelledy Elementary.
She left that job after one year to become principal at Orchard Avenue.
Orchard Avenue was a traditional school, “all about textbooks,” when Hoctor arrived, according to second-grade teacher Kathleen Santy. Hoctor quickly changed that.
“She made it a place where teachers love learning and kids love learning,” Santy said. “It’s a model school now and she has been the driving force behind that.”
Hoctor said she’s sad to leave behind a “dream team” of teachers and students who take pride in their progress. That progress earned the school a Blue Ribbon award this year.
Neither Schmalz nor Hoctor planned to leave the classroom for the principal’s office, but both feel they made the right decision by doing so.
Olathe native Schmalz started his teaching career in Guam, but left the island after one year to teach at Wingate Elementary in 1984.
He has been principal at Appleton for four years.
“Over time, I realized a principal can also make a big difference,” Schmalz said.