The Retirement Party will be on Tuesday May 3, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Berthoud Elementary cafeteria. Present and former students and parents are invited to attend.
After 33 years as Librarian at Berthoud Elementary School, Dortha McCollum is retiring. McCollum has touched many children in the Berthoud area during those years, and they are invited to her retirement party at the school to share memories.
McCollum came to the profession of librarian from very unlikely beginnings. She was born and grew up in the small town of Keota, Oklahoma. The town of 500 is near the Arkansas border.
According to McCollum the town had no library, the elementary school had no library, and the high school library had one wall of books. She confided that she did not like the early “Dick and Jane” readers used in the elementary school and did not have a fondness for books.
The first book of her own was one she won for having the best results on a spelling test in the third grade. She still has the book and shares it with her pupils. The inside cover is autographed by her teacher with the note that she correctly spelled 66 of 69 transportation words.
By the time she reached high school she was an avid reader and said, “I must have read every book in the high school library. She put in one year of college at Oklahoma State University before she and her husband moved to Loveland in 1966. While raising her own children, two daughters and a son, she also ran a small day care center in her home.
It was during this time she discovered Dr. Seuss, whose books she read to her children. She became a real Dr. Seuss fan, well evidenced in the Berthoud Elementary Library.
After her son entered first grade in 1978, she did not want to do day care without her own children present. Her love of children and love of books prompted her to apply for a job at the Thompson School District. With few skills to recommend her, “I couldn’t even type,” she was delighted when Principal Rigsby gave her the opportunity to work at Berthoud Elementary.
“I didn’t even know how to check out books from the library,” she said. “I finally asked one of the teachers if her sixth graders could teach me.”
She said the only job she did not like was putting the cards in the card catalogue. She was delighted when a volunteer offered to take on that job. The volunteer did such a good job that it provided the basis of converting to a computerized catalogue.
McCollum recalled the school getting its first Apple II computer. She knew nothing about computers, but once again it was students to the rescue. One of the fifth grade boys came in early several mornings per week to teach her. He even wrote a program to automate making labels on the computer replacing the tedious task of using the typewriter.
When the school got a computer lab in 1991 (the first lab in an elementary school in the district), McCollum doubled up as lab teacher and librarian, but as demands of both jobs grew, she gave up the lab.
In 1978 she started with eight scheduled classes in the library and now has 18 classes each having two periods a week.
She begins the first class of the week by reading to the children and then having them check out books. She then spends time teaching library skills which includes researching and book knowledge. They also learn such information as where in the book the copyright is located and what it is for.
“The biggest change over the years has been technology,” she said. “I almost feel guilty being in Berthoud,” alluding to the advantage that the Berthoud Bash gives to Berthoud students. “The Berthoud community has been wonderful for the school.”
Still, McCollum is not ready to completely retire. “I will probably do volunteer or substitute work,” she said. Perhaps a few more classes will benefit from her love of children and love of books. She also plans to re-read some of the classics available on her Nook e-reader.
After 16 years as the Staff Health Office Assistant, e.g. the nurse’s aid at Berthoud Elementary, Mrs. Claudia Blanchard is retiring. With the “School Nurse” assigned to four different schools and being available only a day-and-half per week, the nurse’s aid becomes a very important part of the school staff.
Blanchard is very modest and did not even mention her own retirement as she set about to make sure that her friend and colleague Dortha McCollum received recognition for her three decades of work at Berthoud Elementary. It took a little coaxing before she would sit down and tell me about her Berthoud El experience.
Blanchard said she started by doing volunteer work at the school before taking on this assignment. She, of course, likes kids but also likes the medical work. She has had a year’s training in an LPN program but said the main qualification for the job was, “Having raised kids yourself.”
She is happy to be working with elementary school children and describes them as “delightful.” Elementary school children, for the most part, like being at school. Sometimes, however, their “illness” is just a desire to go home. That is where the “mom” experience comes in, determining if there really is a problem or if the child can go back to class. When she peeks out the door and the child is skipping down the hall toward class, she smiles, knowing this was the right decision.
Some times the children don’t even do a good job of playing sick. If she notices the same child coming in at the same time on several days she might see a problem with one class and discuss it with the teacher. More ‘mom” stuff.
She said, “This is a great school and I work with great people, that is why it is so hard to leave.”
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