2018 Employee Recognition Night | Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation Skip to main content

2018 Employee Recognition Night

Kathryn Lock, retiring teacher from Northpoint Elementary
Kathryn Lock, retiring teacher from Northpoint Elementary, does the "The Triangle of Success" with Supt. Dr. Thacker & Board Pres. Chris Riley

P-H-M’s 26th Annual Employee Recognition Dinner was held on Wednesday, May 16 honoring the District’s Teacher of the YearEmployee of the Year and retirees. Service Awards were also given to employees who have dedicated 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 years of service to Penn-Harris-Madison. A special Employee Recognition Award was given to Elnora Freeman, Office Aide at Elm Road Elementary. Elnora has been with P-H-M for 50 years! She received a standing ovation at last night’s dinner (Click here for a full list of this year’s Service Award employees)

Elnora Freeman  Elenora Freeman


The dinner was generously sponsored by Teachers Credit Union. Click here to view the photo gallery below for pictures from this year’s memorable evening.


As part of Teacher of the Year Danielle Black’s recognition, she received a $1,000 grant from the P-H-M Education Foundation to use in her classroom. Danielle is not only the Academy Leader for Penn’s Early College and teaches English, but she’s also the Musical Director for Penn’s annual Spring Musical (Click to watch the surprise announcement made May 4). Danielle, who’s been with P-H-M for five years, was nominated by fellow Academy faculty members who commend her for making sure her students have access to every opportunity possible to help them succeed. She teaches from her “heart and soul” working to make sure her students, not only feel, but also believe that they matter. Danielle also co-founded the charity Awake & Alive, Inc. and opened a school for the impoverished, orphaned children in the slums in Ethopia’s capital city.  These are just one of the many reasons why she’s her colleagues and students say she’s such a great teacher. Click to watch the video below to hear more reasons why Danielle is so well respected ...



Schmucker’s Building Tech Lee Riley was chosen as Classified Employee of the Year (Click to watch the video of the surprise announcement made May 4). She has worked for P-H-M 18 years, but she came to know P-H-M long before that serving as a parent volunteer in the library at Schmucker for eight years before being hired as a Media Aide in 2000. She then became Learning Lab Coordinator position and then Building Tech working for both Bittersweet and Schmucker. Today, she provides full time technology support for Schmucker’s nearly 1,000 students and staff!  was nominated by a fellow Schmucker staff member who commented, “Lee spends countless hours before, during and after school helping many different departments … She will not stop until the problem is solved or the question is answered. If she doesn't know the answer, she will find it!” Click to watch the video below to hear more reasons why Lee was chosen as Classified Employee of the Year …



This year 47 longtime employees retired from P-H-M:

Retirement Reflections

·       What is your favorite memory or what did you like most about working at

·       What words of advice would you give to your fellow colleagues?

·       What new adventure awaits for you in retirement?

Margaret Csenar
34 Years of Service


First of all, I can't believe I am filling out a retirement survey! Didn't I just start my teaching career? 


Reflecting back on my 34 years in Penn-Harris-Madison, my favorite memory would definitely be meeting my husband, Tom! Tom and I met when Moran and Grissom staffs would meet on Friday evenings at “Between the Buns.” I have been so fortunate to teach alongside the most amazing staff at Moran Elementary my entire teaching career. Moran has always been an A rated school, and it truly is a hidden treasure in our Corporation.


My advice to my colleagues is simple … My grandpa used to tell me, “Live life to the fullest. Every day is a gift and live it well!”


In retirement, I plan to travel, volunteer and help my mom check things off of her “Bucket List.” We are taking a cruise to Cuba in October! I am also looking forward to spending time with my daughters too!

Tonja D'Haenens
25 Years of Service


I was lucky enough to experience both Harris and Mary Frank. I enjoyed the size of Harris and the challenges of my dual role of library and technology in both buildings. I especially enjoyed working with the students in areas of their interest and watching their growth from K-5th. I will take with me into my retirement many wonderful memories of both students and colleagues that are like family to me.


My advice to those whom I leave behind is to always remember why they are there and why they chose their profession. It has become a harder job for many of us over the years due to a lot of different circumstances. The challenge has always been to figure out why a child is acting like they are and to give them support to meet their needs. The rewards are there, but sometimes you don't realize those rewards until years later when you hear about the accomplishments of former students or they come to visit.


I intend to spend my retirement enjoying travel with my husband and spending more time with our children and grandchildren. We have three grandchildren in California and one grandchild in Granger who are already planning my days.

Deb Hildreth
14 Years of Service


I have enjoyed my 14 years at Mary Frank working with a wonderful staff and fellow administrators. I have so many great memories: staff celebrations, becoming a Four Star School, our Positive Behavior Assemblies, and having my office decorated with bunnies after an incident with a bunny on the playground. My favorite memory was at an end-of a-year Positive Behavior Assembly when our staff took over the final assembly with a flash mob dance. The time spent with staff practicing, laughing at ourselves while learning the dance and just building comradery was such fun, and the look in our students’ faces made our effort so worth it!


As I retire, I would like to leave my colleagues and fellow administrators the following words …Take life one day at a time, plan ahead but don’t let the “what ifs” drag you into worry. Enjoy each day with its rewards and remember that the challenges stretch us and make us better. Enjoy the individuals that you work with it because it is all about relationships: build them, support them and nurture them.


As I enter into retirement, I hope to spend time with family and friends. I look forward to visiting them in multiple locations throughout the United States and taking my great nieces and nephews for overnight adventures. I also plan to take more time to read, walk, sew, quilt with friends, travel and be more involved with Bible Study Fellowship and church ministries. 

Mary Keller
18 Years of Service


I know that I could share many memories about students, but there are two things that will stay with me. One memory is the amazing staff at Discovery. In 2013, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted to continue to work during the chemotherapy and radiation. My colleagues and school staff were very supportive. I had days from the chemo when my skin was bright red and then no hair for months. Everyone blessed me with encouraging words and a large amount of Dine-In gift cards. It was the push that I needed to keep going. I will be forever grateful! 


The other is the support that I not only got from everyone at Discovery, but also at other P-H-M schools during the years that I had a total of 14 foster children in my home. The children who attended Discovery were surrounded by teachers wanting to help them be successful and see a different path in life. Others attended Mary Frank and Penn High School where they experienced the same. It was an extended family pouring into the children: knowledge, love, and hope. Working for this Corporation has not only supported my growth as a teacher, but also as an individual traveling down adventurous paths in life.


My advice for my colleagues would be: Develop short term memory loss! Each day is a new day! Forget the issues you had the day before with a student. Forget the mistakes you made making a hundred decisions daily. Problem solve, learn, and move on!


I am not sure what new adventures await. I know that I will be busy with my grandchildren and family. I might start a business, be a child advocate, or be a support to children with cancer in some way. Time will tell! 

Kathryn Lock


20 Years of Service


I signed a contract in the basement of the ESC (I was actually on my way to interview for a 4/5 maternity leave position and Pam Von Rahl met with me first!) I have thoroughly enjoyed my journey at Northpoint, first for Joint Services and then for P-H-M. I began the journey at both Prairie Vista and Northpoint with a split assignment and then continued on with Northpoint. The past 20 years have filled my heart. The people, both children and adults who have crossed my path, have left me with wonderful memories. 


Be positive, encourage those around you, be passionate about what you do, be kind!


Retirement will include golfing on as many courses in different states as I am able, enjoying my husband, family and five amazing grandchildren, gardening, cooking, and my beautiful lake home!

Erin Neufelder


32 Years of Service


The most important memories while working for P-H-M include creating all of the lifelong friendships with my colleagues, wonderful parents, and the many students I was blessed to teach. In 1989 I had a large "student choir" sing "The Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston at our wedding. Her words hold dear to me today … "Children are our future, teach them well, and let them lead the way ..."

A piece of advice that I would give to a fellow colleague would be to truly believe in children's Emotional Quotient. As Don Quimby taught us, their "EQ" is more important than their IQ! Show your passion and value children everyday as you teach, and always remember to never let anyone steal your JOY!


The new adventure that awaits us is our big move to our condo on Longboat Key, Florida! My husband and I are literally packing up and selling everything in our home in Granger and moving! We will enjoy sailing, fishing, kayaking, biking, company from the north, breakfast/lunch/dinner with friends, watching beautiful sunsets, and many, many long walks on the beach!


I gave teaching my all, and I pray I touched the hearts of my students and colleagues along the way.

Judith Phillips
Bus Aide
14 Years of Service


My being a bus aide for special needs children, beginning with my very special Michael K., from his 7th and 8th grade grades at Discovery through Penn, then there was young adults along with a large number of other special boys and girls has been the most rewarding job in my life.


Seeing the smiles on their faces, talking to their parents and being with dedicated bus drivers, along with the friendships I have established these years, have made me enjoy going to work each day.


Patience and love is very important, along with kindness.

Beth Raker

Teacher/Instructional Tech Coordinator

44 Years of Service         


I have so many memories it's hard to know where to start. The best ones are of relationships with my students, their parents and with the many staff members I've worked with. I especially like it when I run into a student or parent in public and they say hello. It’s the BEST when they say I was their favorite teacher. Now that my job is about supporting staff, I appreciate all the kind notes and thank you's when I'm able to help. They make my day!


I love to quilt and sew, so I will be doing more of that and going to quilt conventions will be easier to schedule. I intend to spend more time volunteering at Ten Thousand Villages and Busy Hands of Michiana. I imagine I will also be doing some volunteering with robotics in the elementary school (thanks to pressure from a certain person who shall not be named here!).


I can be more help ferrying grandkids and will see more of them, I hope. I also love to read so now I can stay up late to finish those last few chapters and then sleep in. In addition, my husband and I will do some traveling but don't have any definite plans right now. I also promise to get up on Fridays (most of them) for my breakfast group at The Curve, even though it will be VERY EARLY!!

Mary Ann Saoud


26 Years of Service


Working for P-H-M has been a joy. After taking 10 years off to have children and raise my family, I never thought I would teach again. Jobs were few and far between for those who graduated in the mid 70’s. About the time I was called back in my district in a Detroit suburb, we were moving out of state for my husband’s career to Pittsburgh. After living six years in Pittsburgh, the company decided to move its corporate headquarters to Mishawaka. I am so thankful that Don Quimby decided he wanted a computer class at the middle school. He believed in me and gave me a chance to work at something I

love. He encouraged me daily and we worked together to develop a computer program for middle school.


I enjoyed the relationships I made after moving to Indiana during my career with P-H-M. Moving your family from another state is always difficult. My peers and colleagues soon became my family. These friendships have endured even though many have retired or moved on to other jobs and buildings.


I am also thankful to Sheryll Harper for always pushing the envelope and encouraging us to try new things and new mindsets in our classrooms. I truly feel blessed working for P-H-M. My advice to my colleagues is to believe you are making a difference every day even if you leave the building feeling defeated. On those defeated days, always come back with new ideas or approaches striving for a different result. The “Star Fish” story has always been a favorite of mine and reminds me that often the little things we do in life can truly make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with daily. I have this story posted in my room and look at it often.


I am looking forward to spending time with my two grandsons ages 3 and 6 months. I am hoping to travel a bit with my husband and family. I am looking forward to a less hectic schedule, if such a thing exists.

Denise Seger


15 Years of Service


My fondest memory at P-H-M is participating in graduation day ceremonies annually. I am very proud that I was able to present my three children their Penn High School academic honors diplomas.


As I look back at the highlights of my career, I am proud of three aspects: mentoring, leadership and strategic planning initiatives. I have enjoyed teaching other school business officials and administrators and watching them become successful in their career path. The team work of my fellow business department colleagues helped us to achieve the best State Board of Accounts audit. During my 15 years, we have improved the financial health of the school corporation by implementing financial management practices. Working with our Facilities Department, we planned $80 million worth of building improvements during my tenure without increasing taxes.


I have enjoyed the opportunity to serve as an administrator in P-H-M and work with wonderful people. My words of advice are to always think about the students first when making decisions. I believe I have earned the respect of my colleagues by being honest, hard-working and treating all people equally.

After 33 years of serving as a teacher and administrator, I desire to explore other avenues in public education. One of my favorite pastimes is reading and I would like to work in a bookstore near the beach!


Patsy Sherer
30 Years of Service


I have taught elementary music in P-H-M for 30 years, in 13 rooms, in eight schools with 12 principals. For many of those years, I was able to teach part-time while my children were young. I was grateful for the flexibility of the Corporation for making that possible. I enjoyed working with so many different people and experiencing the culture and the unique personalities of each school.


Advice is easy to give, harder to live. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh. Be the kind of person others want to work with. Be kind. Assume everyone has the students’ best interests at heart. Give your co-workers the benefit of the doubt and value everyone’s contributions. Let students see your mistakes and challenges (no, I can’t get a decent sound out of a flute, hard as I might try!).


In the coming months and years, I want to continue making music with others. I plan to do freelance piano accompanying and perhaps teach some private lessons. Maybe I’ll even learn to play another instrument. I hope to do some traveling, but as of this writing have no definite plans.

Kristine Smith

16 Years of Service


Favorite Memories ... too many to sort through!!! But when I tell my students there is going to be a sub and they all groan, I just love that! Another VERY strong memory was the realization about 4 a.m. at our very first student council lock-in that Michael Coffee was probably one of the finest/wisest people I was ever going to meet; and he is! My Exceptional Ed family has also given me too many sweet memories to even begin to express. Thank you for allowing me to use too many exclamation marks, loving me, and allowing me to be me. 


Advice ... after 36 years of teaching exceptional education, I still sometimes sit in my car at the end of a day and marvel (laugh) at the fact I get paid to teach the most incredible people on the planet. I think when teachers don't find the joy anymore it is time to go. 


That being said, this is a "fake retirement." My husband (who is "for reals" retiring from IUSB) and I are moving to South Carolina and taking a gap year to figure out what we want to do when we grow up. And there is an empty easel and many blank canvases with my name on them. 

Sandra Vanslager Zane
28 Years of Service


I have enjoyed my years of experience at P-H-M. My first assignment was Assistant Athletic Director at Penn High School. After four years of administration, I returned to the classroom at Grissom Middle School and then on to Discovery Middle School while teaching Freshman PE at Penn during summer school for 24 years. I will miss working with the summer school teachers!!


I loved working with the Discovery Fitness Staff: Raoul, Donna, Terry and Chad my 8th grade sidekick. I will truly miss the camaraderie and also the professionalism of Sheryll and Troy at Discovery.


I treasure the friendships I have made throughout the years and experiences I have had at P-H-M. I especially appreciate the gifted aides and school nurses that work their magic with our students.


My plans for retirement begin with trying to catch up on all the things I have wanted to do for the past 48 years of my life given to teaching. I am looking forward to relaxing and spending time with family, being there for the ones who really need me now. I will enjoy exercising whenever I choose to do so, photography, gardening, some travel, just to mention a few. There are by far too many opportunities for me to list.


And for fellow colleagues, keep doing what you are doing that you know is right in your heart because one thing we can all count on is “that life changes.”


I will miss every one of you (some more than others), as you are and will remain, very special people in my life. May God be with you all. 

Donna Zorn
33 Years of Service


I started working for P-H-M as a bus driver. During that time, I realized how much I enjoyed being with the kids. So when my son began kindergarten, I decided to go back to school to get my degree in education. It was the best decision I have ever made. Being a teacher is the most rewarding job. My happy place was in my classroom with my students!


When you find your passion, follow it! You will never regret it. Always reach for the stars!


I look forward to spending time in Florida during the winter months. My husband and I plan on golfing and enjoying the beautiful Florida beaches and sunsets!  Most of all, I look forward to spending time with my grandchildren.