NORTH LIBERTY– Debbie Benewich will be missed.
The long-time teacher is leaving Van Allen Elementary School in North Liberty this week, retiring after 32 years in the field of education.
Benewich was honored as an Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) DPO Scholarship nominee by her teaching teammates at Van Allen in March. The DPO (Districtwide Parents’ Organization) sponsors the program as one way to recognize excellence in the educational system.
The DPO Education Scholarship Fund provides scholarships to ICCSD high school seniors planning to enter the field of education; for each $50 contributed to the fund, people involved within the district are able to designate an honoree who has also contributed to the education of ICCSD students.
Van Allen kindergarten teachers Michelle Knupp and Amy Halverson nominated Benewich, also a kindergarten teacher, because of her commitment to her students.
“We can not come up with enough words of praise to adequately describe how Van Allen, and especially our kindergarten team, have been blessed to have Mrs. Benewich for the past five years,” the pair wrote in their nomination speech. “Every day, Debbie brings professionalism, a positive attitude, and a sense of caring to her students and coworkers.”
Benewich, of North Liberty, spent the last 16 years teaching in Iowa City elementary schools, at Longfellow, Hills, Roosevelt, Wickham and, most recently, Van Allen. Before coming to Iowa City, she taught learning disabled children in Belle Plaine, Davenport, and Bettendorf schools.
She takes leave of Van Allen, and also North Liberty, as she will be moving to Colorado to be closer to her daughter. As she retires, Benewich said she looks forward to making her own schedule and exploring different opportunities than were possible when she worked full time.
“I hope to have more time for my family and hobbies,” she said. “My husband is hoping I will do more hiking with him.”
Before taking that first step into her new journey, Benewich returned the admiration from her co-workers.
“I have been very fortunate in my career to work with wonderful, dedicated teachers who are willing to go the extra mile for their students and colleagues,” she said in an email communication with the Leader. “It always amazes me how much of themselves teachers give to their profession, students and families. I have also had the opportunity to work with some wonderful families, in a variety of settings. Without the family support, our job would be so much more difficult. ”
Benewich said her main goal for her students has always been for them to believe in themselves.
“I will miss the pure joy that kindergarteners get when something finally clicks with them or they have discovered something on their own. I always wanted my students to leave my room believing that they were readers and writers and feeling confident in their skills,” she said. “I tried to make my room a happy, safe place for them to be so they could learn the social skills necessary to be successful citizens as they grew up.”
According to Benewich’s team, she brought happiness, confidence and success to children, and so much more.
“Most of all, Debbie brings a part of her heart and a love for education,” they said. “Her commitment to teaching gives everyone a little piece of ‘Mrs. Benewich’ to carry with them. “
In their nomination of Benewich as an Education Scholarship honoree, they hope to pass on Debbie’s love of education to another teacher, as he or she enters a new teaching career.