13th in a series
of interviews with Logan County's retiring teachers
Sauer, asst. principal, librarian, teacher, retires from Zion
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[June 14, 2011]
Every school probably has one, and if
they don't they should get one. That valuable asset is a person
willing and capable of filling gaps, stepping up and helping out,
and acting on behalf of the students and staff with a passion that
truly comes from the heart. At Zion Lutheran School in Lincoln, that
person is Donna Sauer, assistant principal, librarian and teacher.
Mrs. Sauer began teaching for Zion Lutheran when it was only
pre-kindergarten, and she continued that role for two years. The
program had begun at the church and was the seed that expanded in
the fall of 1975 to pre-kindergarten through third grade. She
started teaching at the new Zion Lutheran School when it opened. But
after 37 years of teaching, she has decided to retire.
up on a farm at Bonfield, near Kankakee. She attended Herscher High
School and graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in
"I always wanted to be a teacher," she said in her interview. "I
love working with children."
Her first position was teaching third grade at the old Abe
Lincoln Elementary School on Lincoln's north side. She took off for
four years, and when she returned to classroom duty, it was with
Zion Lutheran at the church. In the spring of 1980, the school moved
to its current building at 1600 Woodlawn Road.
Over the years, depending on class sizes, Mrs. Sauer switched
between second, third and fourth grades. At one time, she also
taught fifth grade on a part-time basis. In the early years of its
existence, the school had single-grade classrooms, but more recently
the practice has been to pair classes into one room.
In 1990, she was asked to be the school librarian. She loves
reading, so it was a nice fit.
"It is a passion," Mrs. Sauer said about maintaining the library.
"I plan to continue as the volunteer librarian after I retire. It
just makes sense to continue in that way, and it will keep me
Seven years ago, she was appointed to also fill the position of
"I always wanted to instill a love of learning so the students
wanted to be here, not just to get a grade," she explained.
"I like to watch their relationships with each other. It is
heartening to see them care about others and not just themselves. It
is good to watch them become aware of the world around them."
Mrs. Sauer loved to take the kids on field trips so they could
see the real world. Since the school doesn't have buses, parents
volunteer to chaperone on trips and double as drivers with a group
of students in their vehicle.
She sees that parental dedication to students' education as a
special feature of the small school and maybe of the church-oriented
school, which stresses morality, references biblical teachings and
opens the day with devotions. Spending time with students in those
special times of quiet reflection is one of the things she will
miss. It was a bonding time when students and staff were away from
classroom activity and learning to share in different ways.
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"I definitely will miss being with the children day in and day
out," she said, "but I will hopefully volunteer enough to be with
them and still have my freedom.
"I may be here so much they will tell me to go home," she joked,
"but I don't think that will happen. There is always room for
volunteers in a small school, and I can't imagine not being here.
I'll be in the library, and probably substitute sometimes, but our
teachers don't use their days off very much."
Donna plans to work more in the yard and garden and to volunteer
somewhere else in town, but she hasn't decided where.
Her husband, Steve, is retired from Lincoln Community High
School, and with both of them having an open schedule, they will be
able to make travel plans, although they have no particular place in
They will definitely go more often to Orlando, Fla., where their
son, Jason, lives. Their daughter, Jennifer (Davis), and two
grandchildren live in Rochester. The 10-year-old and 5-year-old are
getting busier and Donna can foresee spending more time with them.
"I will miss the children and the staff, but it will be nice to
spend time with them part time and have freedom for myself and my
family," Donna concluded. "There are so many possibilities, and that
is the best part about retirement."
[By MARLA BLAIR]
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