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Monday, May 29, 2017

Fort Thomas Resident and Woodfill Teacher Retires After 39 Years

Anne Klei has taught at Woodfill Elementary for 38 years.

While teachers throughout Fort Thomas Independent Schools have been preparing their room for summer, several have been packing up their rooms for good—including a 1st grade teacher who has taught at Woodfill Elementary for 38 years.

Anne Klei grew up on Grant St., directly behind Woodfill. She attended St. Thomas School, and graduated from its high school in 1973. She began her college education at Thomas More College, thanks to a scholarship, and then transferred to Northern Kentucky University (NKU), graduating in 1977. She later obtained her master's degree from NKU as well.

Klei began her teaching career at Silver Grove Schools, where she taught a learning disabilities class. The remainder of her career has been at Woodfill, beginning in 1979. She's taught special education, 2nd grade, a combination of 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders (during the KERA reform), and 1st grade.

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She and her husband, Mark, who both still live in Fort Thomas, raised two daughters in the city.

"Teaching has not been just a job for me, it's been my life," Klei says. "I get so excited when a student reads a book all by him/herself, answers a difficult math problem, shows me a story they wrote. One of the things I've enjoyed the most is getting boys and girls excited about reading—showing them what adventures lie in books."

Many parents have been thankful for Klei's dedication throughout her 39 years of teaching, including those in her most recent class.

"We are so grateful that both of our kids were placed with Mrs. Klei," says Woodfill parent Shelley Frey. "Although they are only a year apart in school, their personalities are vastly different. Mrs. Klei encouraged, supported and challenged each of them in ways that each uniquely needed. She took the time to really see and know my kids. They emerged from the first grade feeling successful and confident. Her passion for teaching was clear in every interaction. We can't thank her enough for her dedication."

Woodfill parent Kena Cole echoed these sentiments. "Mrs. Klei was a wonderful teacher for Zachary," she says. "She pushed him to what he's capable of instead of allowing him to get bored. She kept him on task and held him responsible for making poor choices. She's exactly what he needed this year."

Many folks have long appreciated the structure in Klei's classroom. "Mrs. Klei truly helped our daughter, Gabby, blossom in her class this past year," says Woodfill parents Rebecca and Eric Neufarth. "The structure provided in Mrs. Klei's classroom helped our daughter develop her reading and math skills, but also taught her that good students also have expectations that needed to be met. She knew that those expectations were with consequence if they weren't met, but also that it helped their day go smoothly. Thank you, Anne, for all you did for our daughter and for Woodfill Elementary over the years."

And as much as the parents will miss Klei, so will the students. "Carson Claire absolutely loved Mrs. Klei," says Woodfill parent Chastity Jacobs. "She grew leaps and bounds this year. She has been telling me all week how much she was going to miss Mrs. Klei. Today [the last day of school], when she got in the car she said she had cried at school and couldn't wait to write Mrs. Klei letters to see what she's up to later [laughs]."

Owen Uhl, one of Klei's students this past year, would wake up excited to go to school in the mornings. "Mrs. Klei is the best teacher in the world," he says. "I liked the Daily 6."

Woodfill Principal Keith Faust says he has long admired and respected Klei's continuous desire to grow professionally. "Each year she would seek out professional learning opportunities and incorporate those strategies in her classroom," Faust says. "Another strength of Anne's is her deep understanding of where each of her students are academically. She will adjust her instruction accordingly to meet their needs. Her experience, and commitment to the profession and students, will be greatly missed."

And as for Klei's fellow teachers, well ... "Anne is a legend," says Woodfill 1st grade teachers, Shelby Jones and Casey Gesenhues. "She has taught in Fort Thomas Schools for 38 years and the students she has impacted are innumerable. We have talked with students over the last few days of school and the many wonderful things they say about her will make anyone smile."

Jones and Gesenhues say that although it may sound simple, as teachers their first priority is the students. "And hearing many of our current students say that she makes them happy is a huge compliment," they say. "She perfected craft while also taking on the role of mom, nurse, counselor, friend, disciplinarian and confidant. She planned engaging lessons, she worked tirelessly, she had high expectations, she differentiated for all her students, she made sure she positively impacted students and teachers alike, and finally, I can say with confidence: She is leaving a legacy. The shoes she left to fill are big. Anne is a colleague we will all greatly miss."

Reflecting on her retirement, Klei says her emotions are all over the place. "I am extremely sad to leave Woodfill," she says. "I feel like everyone there is my family. I'm always off in the summer, so I think it will really hit me in August, when I don't go back into the classroom. My group of students this year was extremely special, because they are the last group I will have the privilege of working with. I look forward to spending more time with my two grandchildren, in California, reading, doing yard work and some sort of creative hobby." 

Thank you, Anne, for all your love and dedication to hundreds of Woodfill students. You will be missed.

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