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CK Faces: Not blue about departing the orange and black
John Sitton and Cindy Hjelmaa arent watching the calendar. The couple, who have spent a combined 62 years teaching, coaching and advising two generations of students, are in their final days at Central Kitsap High School. So when is their last day?
Were not sure, John said, honestly not knowing the last day of school is on June 21.
Its a typical response from a couple of educators who have spent the better part of four decades giving everything they can to improving the educational experience at CK High.
Theyre just part of the culture of our school, principal John Cervinsky said. They established a lot of the traditions we have. Their absence is going to change the complexity of the school. I believe their impact has been so strong that a lot of their traditions will continue.
Theyre both positive staff members who have the best interests of CK High at heart, Cervinsky added. Theyll be sorely missed.
Johns been a coach, class adviser, teacher and the schools athletic director. Cindys resumÃ© includes history teacher, class adviser, graduation guru, department head and activities director. All of which add up to many hours of working with, teaching and coaching thousands of students.
Weve had a lot of kids over the years, Cindy said. They had a Founders Day event where John and I were honored and the number is unbelievable.
Was it 19,000 or 60,000? John tried to recall.
And those are just the students weve had in the classroom, Cindy said. Then you have all the students that know us through activities that Johns coached, so collectively we dont know. We do know there isnt a grocery store or gas station we can go to where somebody isnt calling out Ms. Hjelmaa, Mr. Sitton.
Starting fresh out of college, John said its weird to think that some of his former students are now 50 years old. Were getting out before we start getting their grandchildren, he said.
With their retirements coinciding and few plans ahead (they are going to be in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on the first day of the 2006-07 school year and John says hes going to continue to be Bruce Wellings assistant softball coach in the spring, other than that theres nothing else theyre committed to), the pair says theyre ready for what lies ahead.
A lot of people say that when you retire, you have a difficult time being around your spouse all the time, Cindy said. But for us, weve always done things together.
Every dance, every graduation, every prom, every (basketball) game Cindy was on the bus, John said.
The couple has taught together and even shared an office space for several years.
When he was athletic director and I was the activities director it was really good, Cindy said. We coordinate well.
Being part of everything is something theyve always done.
From day one of when we started teaching, we were multi-tasking, John said. And so, being able to, especially for the last decade or two, handle the major activities as one person now theres four people doing our jobs it was actually easy for us. Back when we started you had to do all these things because of the job market. And then it never stopped. Weve been doing multiple jobs for 31 years, never just taught.
All those activities, combined with their strong personalities, kept the pair more focused on their lessons .
About a month ago somebody asked, So how many days do you have left? and we didnt know, Cindy said. Thats kind of good to teach that long and not to be counting down.
But are these builders and creators ready for life without Central Kitsap High?
When youve been there and done that for so long, we dont need to be attached to it because everything was given to it at that time. John said. Weve left everything on the table.
There is nothing that we couldnt have done better, Cindy said. Its how weve always been.