A De Witt, Iowa, school celebrates National Teacher Appreciation Week in a special way.
Ekstrand Elementary School honors one of its own after more than four decades in the classroom.
There’s a hallway parade on Friday as several generations of past students, family and friends honor a remarkable teacher.
“Were you surprised?” they asked Gena Owens.
“Oh my gosh, yes,” she replied. “More than that.”
These are magical moments for Gena. She’s retiring in June after 42 years in education.
Reason enough for kindergartners to present her with roses.
“I love their smiles every day,” she said. “And all the the things that they tell me.”
Gena spent her entire career as a kindergarten teacher. She’s been holding class at Ekstrand since 1978.
“She always made you feel comfortable, safe,” said former student Kasey Kleinsmith.
Kasey’s daughter, Paige Lindle, 12, also was in Gena’s class.
“She’s just kind and generous to all of her students,” she said.
According to Gena’s mom, it’s really a dream come true for the Naperville, Illinois, native.
“Sixth grade, she told me that she was going to be a kindergarten teacher,” she said.
This gentle approach inspired hundreds of students.
Another former student, Jessica Sunday, was motivated to become a teacher herself.
“42 years, to come back every year with your A-game and teach a classroom of five year olds, that’s inspiring,” Jessica said.
Gena’s era in education is characterized by learning and love. For kindergartners, it’s just the right start for kids.
Gena won’t be far away. As she puts it, she lives 262 steps from Ekstrand School.
“I’m just so happy I could be a part of their lives,” she concluded.
A great teacher and friend, Gena Owens will always be home at Ekstrand Elementary School.