As the school year comes to an end, several Westerville educators also say goodbye to colleagues and students as they enter retirement.

As the school year comes to an end, several Westerville educators also say goodbye to colleagues and students as they enter retirement.

The Westerville Education Association honored Steven Coolahan, Renee D'Amico, Sandra Duckworth, Natalie Hetrick, Suzanne Kass, Teri Lott, Jill MacDonald, Nancy Palumbo, Candy Peak, Debby Petrozzi, Beth Simpson and Kevin Thuman at a reception on May 7.

"We celebrate what our retiring teachers gave to their colleagues and to the Westerville students," said Rhonda Gilpin, president of the WEA. "It is a bittersweet time for all and something we all look forward to, yet sometimes difficult to face when it is our time to make the decision. We are losing over 360 years of experience at the close of this school year."

Coolahan and Peak are two who have dedicated decades of service to Westerville City Schools.

Before coming to Westerville, Coolahan taught high school English for three years. In 1983, Coolahan came into the district not as a teacher, but as a school psychologist.

"I realized teaching is probably the hardest position there ever is," Coolahan said.

"I really thought as far as education was concerned, there was a lot more I could do in supporting teachers and parents in working with kids."

In 2000, he began Westerville's alternative high school program to help students who were close to dropping out or had quit school. Coolahan helped 1,400 young people receive a diploma.

He said he'll miss the challenge and the surprises his work brings daily, but knows the teachers will continue the work he started.

"I've got four of the best teachers in the district. It's a great staff and they love what they do," he said. "I'll miss them and I'll miss the kids, but the work they do will continue."

Peak dedicated 30 years as a kindergarten teacher, 27 years in Westerville and many at Alcott Elementary School. She said she loved helping kids become students.

"I cannot get out of kindergarten," Peak said. "It's the first experience at discovering what school is. We get to have that excitement of what learning is and how we learn together."

She enjoyed teaching her students, but said she learned something new every day, too, from the students and her colleagues. It is also what she will miss the most.

"The kids keep you so young and active and thinking. I talk to them and they learn every day," Peak said. "As a teacher, I learned something every day, something new and different, too. That excitement of learning, something new every day with young children, I'm going to miss that."

Peak plans on spending her retirement traveling and volunteering, and will welcome her first grandchild in early fall.

She is grateful for her long career with the district.

"I have grown so much here. They have presented so many opportunities to learn my craft, so many teachers who have taught me so much," she said. "I'm thankful for the parents who have sent their kids to me and who are so supportive. I hope that continues."