Nine Mexico School District No. 59 staff members were honored Tuesday during the board of education meeting.

The departing staff members have more than 150 years combined experience serving the district, according to the meeting's agenda. Each retiree received a golden apple and lifetime pass to district activities. Prior to the meeting, a welcome reception was held for a new principal for McMillan Elementary School and assistant principal for Mexico High School.

Angie Anderson has served the district for the past nine years. She started as the middle school nurse before becoming the district lead nurse.

Just because she is ending her career with the district, doesn't mean she isn't stopping her nursing career. "Angie will work with 'Research to Practice' to mentor and supervise school nurses across Missouri that are practicing on their own," said board member Kelli Teel, reading from a statement.

During her tenure, Anderson provided training and growth opportunities for district nurses, wrote grants, and facilitated a staff wellness program and an at-risk program for students.

"She made sure all staff had training about general medical conditions and offered CPR training to anyone who wanted it," Teel said.

Jeff Anderson has worked for 34 years in education. He started with the district as Mexico High School activities director for eight years, then served as an assistant principal for nine. He plans to spend more time with his family and at the YMCA and golf course.

"Jeff loves to watch athletes grow on and off the court, field and mat. He celebrates their successes ... and he mourns their defeat with them, as well," said board member Heather DeMint reading from a statement from Mexico Middle School Principal Deb Hill-Haag.

Anderson recognized the school board and high school administrators. "The last nine years have been very rewarding to me,” he said. “...It's been a great experience.”

Kim Black has served the district for more than 23 years in a variety of roles, including pre-kindergarten and parents as teachers secretary, office assistant at McMillan Elementary School, summer school playground supervisor, custodian and member of the summer school custodial crew.

"I enjoyed building relationships with students and their families and watching the excitement of being at school," school board Nathan Birt read, quoting Black.

In her role with Parents as Teachers, Black retained vital records, compiled reports for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, took and relayed phone calls and made flyers to advertise events.

"Kim filled lots of roles beyond that of secretary,” Birt said. “She dedicated the best parts of herself and her career to Mexico 59.”

Black plans to spend more time with her family post-retirement.

Jennifer Gore has worked in the school district for 12 years, with the last six as a speech implementer helping students with speech disorders at the middle and high schools. Her role as a speech implementer allowed her to work with students either in a one-on-one or small group basis.

Middle school Assistant Principal Julie Lower noted in the statement read by board member Nicole Nelson that Gore was first her teacher, then her colleague.

"She has always been a dedicated education, who consistently shows that she cares about her students and their learning," Nelson read. "She has continued to work hard no matter what her role is. Her focus is always on helping kids grow."

Gore's retirement plans include traveling with her husband, Ken, in their motorhome.

Mary Ann Kasubke has taught and counseled students in the district for 36, with 17 of those as school counselor at McMillan.

"She is noteworthy in her continued care and support of students' emotions who come from traumatic backgrounds and her positive influence to teach character education," board President Dustin Pascoe said, reading from a statement.

Kasubke is known for reading books aloud to students. She plans to travel and spend more time with family and friends.

Roger Turner has served the district for seven years, first as an in-school suspension instructor at Mexico High School, and finishing as a social studies teacher. He also served as the assistant girls basketball coach.

Turner is known for his connection to students and he helped double and triple end-of-course assessment scores for the social studies department. He is a co-founder of the high school's National History Day event, who grew a yearlong capstone project and national competition into an ongoing program.

"As a drivers' education teacher, he likely possesses the funniest and yet most harrowing stories of students and learning at MHS," Pascoe read.

Darven Nichols has served 27 years as a custodian in the district.

His dedication to the student education is evident when he would make sure Mexico High School was open from away games so students could make it home quicker, so they could then easily return to school the next day, said board member Scott Nichols reading from a statement. "Darven exemplifies what a Bulldog for life looks like," he said, quoting coach Daren Pappas.

Amy Auwarter has served the district for 16 and is retiring as the Hawthorne Elementary School counselor, which is where she started her education career as a student. She is known for greeting all students and staff with the phrase "Good Morning, wonderful ones."

Her immediate retirement plans are to take a trip to Hawaii with her mom, likely in July.

"Amy brings joy, cheerfulness and positivity to our school every day. (She) never seems to have a bad day and always has a smile, a hug or a positive thought when we seem to need it most," said DeMint, reading.

Tori Webber has taught elementary school at Eugene Field for 23 years, along with summer school and serving as student council sponsor.

"Upon her retirement, Tori plans to learn to be a farm wife. A very patient farm wife, (due to) lots of rain." Teel said.

Webber worked to create well-rounded students through curriculum instruction as well as encouraging character traits of compassion, honesty, kindness and loyalty. She is known for her structure and classroom organization, which is helpful for students needing boundaries and high expectations, Teel said. "Every year, she knits fidget pads for students to use as a comfort and focusing tool," she said.

Welcoming reception

McMillan will welcome Anne Billington as its principal this fall when previous Principal Rebecca Moppin transfers to the high school to take on a new role. She comes to the district from Grundy County R-V Elementary School in Galt, Missouri, where she was the kindergarten through sixth-grade principal and federal programs director. She has been in education for 16 years.

"I am extremely excited to become a Mexico Bulldog," she said in a March news release. "I am genuinely looking forward to being part of the new kindergarten reconfiguration and excited about our bright future together."

Billington received her undergraduate degrees from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, and Lindenwood University in St. Charles. Her masters in advanced studies degree is from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, and her doctorate is from Saint Louis University in St. Louis.

Chris Gray will serve as the assistant high school principal, taking over a role from Travis Blevins, who is now serving as activities director. He comes to the district from Troy R-III School District in Lincoln County where he worked as the middle school's assistant principal and activities director.

Gray has a total of 21 years in education and holds a bachelor of arts degree from Loyola University in Chicago, a masters in education from William Woods University of Fulton and an educational specialist degree from Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis.

"I have worked in Northeast Missouri for a long time and have heard great things about Mexico. I identify strongly with the district's mission and cannot wait to get started working the staff and students at MHS," he said in a news release.