When Cascade Elementary teacher Tara Noonan walked out of school at the end of the year it was different from the previous 37 years she had done the same thing. This time she retired.

Noonan’s career in education saw her teach 38 years in all, 32 with the Western Dubuque Community School District.

The six years prior were at Aquin Catholic, and this marked her silver anniversary of teaching at CES. In all, Noonan was a classroom teacher for 32 years and a special education teacher for six.

To stay with anything for 38 years almost has to qualify as a “calling,” and Noonan sure enjoyed getting the call. When asked what her favorite memories are of her 38 years, she said, “creating lifelong friendships with co-workers and students. I love when students I’ve taught in years gone by stop by my room, or see me in public, and say hello. All the school assemblies, field trips, color runs, carnivals, first and last days of school years, the list is endless.”

The list of lives Noonan impacted during her tenure is also almost endless. And she doesn’t understate the importance of reaching each and every one of them. “Children are coming to school ready to be challenged academically. We have to be prepared to teach at the child’s instructional level and not necessarily whole group.”

Noonan has also embraced the whole-child approach. “Another big change has been helping kids with trauma in their life,” she said. “We don’t necessarily need to know what it is, but we need to know how to understand, support and encourage them in class.”

If that sounds like how you would interact with a family member it’s no accident. Noonan said the school created the “one big happy family feeling” anytime it could.

“This year our parent-teacher organization and Mr. (Dan) Wendler gave us “Family” shirts as a gift. This is so appropriate because the relationships the staff and students build with each other makes everyone feel like a second family. Cascade Elementary has so many good things in place that are making such a difference in students’ lives.”

Noonan has seen quite a few advancements in technology, not having any computers in her first classroom. She sees the new educational tools as vital. “They have allowed for more opportunities geared toward greater student engagement.”

Her days are now hers, and don’t look for her to be pining about the old days. While she loved her career and the people who were part of it, she also has plenty of fun planned doing what she loves, including walking, boating, reading and spending time with her family.