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Holladay Journal

Three beloved and longtime educators retire from Olympus Jr. High

Aug 09, 2021 11:40AM ● By Heather Lawrence

Retiring teacher Alan Thomas loved teaching Spanish so much that he even did it during the summer, taking students on trips to Mexico and Costa Rica. (Olympus Jr. High PTSA)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Many schools said goodbye to retiring faculty at the end of the school year. Olympus Jr. High had a luncheon May 21 for three special staff members: Lani Anderson, Jayne Springman and Alan Thomas. In addition, the PTSA surprised them with heartfelt notes from students, parents and coworkers who have been influenced by the teachers over the years. 

Lani Anderson was with the school for 21 years as a member of the counseling center’s support staff. Caryn Melonas, who teaches health and P.E. at Olympus Jr., recognized what a difference Anderson made at the school. 

“You have been a solid support for this school, and literally held it together with all the changes and administrative shifts. Your voice over the intercom will be missed. It was calming and soothing to hear. I’m not sure if the teachers really understand how much you did for us and how efficient, effective and flawless you were at your job,” Melonas wrote to Anderson.  

Spanish and keyboarding teacher Mike McCullough called Anderson a bright spot in the school. “Every time I see you, you have a smile on your face. You always have time to talk about anything, and I know I can always count on you to get anything and everything done,” McCullough said. 

Tina Seastrand, a parent of OJH students who served on the OJH Community Council told Anderson that whoever follows her will have big shoes to fill. “You kept the machine well-oiled and running smoothly. I noticed it and so did others,” Seastrand said. 

Jayne Springman was the choir and dance teacher for 28 years, and went out of her way to make sure students had creative and cultural experiences. Teaching for that long, Springman was able to see siblings from many families come through her classes, including the Haws family. 

“We will never forget the great choir concerts you produced. It was also fun to travel with you to the outside concerts and events and perform at local schools. We will always appreciate the efforts you made to expose the students to rich, cultural experiences. You have enriched all of our lives. 

“[This last year] it was incredible to see you lead seventh-grade boys and girls in song and dance, even while wearing masks. No one but you could pull that all off!” wrote parents Scott and Renee Haws in appreciation of Springman’s efforts toward their three children.  

Springman also received notes of appreciation from her colleagues, like teacher Carly Sorenson who helps with the costumes for school productions. 

“Jayne, when I stop to think about the plays without you...I just don’t know what to think! I have really enjoyed working with you for the past five productions. Your knowledge and magic with the squirrely junior high students is remarkable. I will miss your sense of humor and eye rolls to all the changes that seem to happen year after year,” Sorenson wrote. 

Beloved Spanish teacher Alan Thomas also retired after 39 years of teaching and leading students on tours in Spanish-speaking countries. Thomas’s notes from current and former students and faculty were peppered with bits of Spanish they remembered, but mostly they remembered that Thomas enjoyed teaching and loved his students. 

“When I saw the post about Señor Thomas retiring, I was flooded with memories. He made a deep and lasting impact on me. Spanish class was never boring because Señor Thomas always had a way to make it fun. 

“This summer I’m leaving for a mission to Uruguay, speaking Spanish, of course. I owe you for instilling in me a love for Spanish and South American culture. ¡Gracias, Señor Thomas!” wrote former student Emma Maxfield.  

Another former student, Christy Christenson Anderson, was in the OJHS class of 1984. She commented that she was “probably among your very first students, ‘muchos años’ ago! Having a solid foundation in Spanish has paid many dividends for me. Besides the fun and friends made in your classroom, Spanish grammar continues to flex its way into my writing work today. Plus, I can get taxi drivers to understand me [when I travel] in Mexico. Consider that a job well done!” Anderson wrote.  

In addition to the notes from students, Thomas was recognized formally by the Region 5 PTA as one of three Outstanding Secondary Educators in spring 2021. Thomas was recommended for the award by PTSA member Angie Pearson. Pearson was also a student of Thomas’s in the 1980s, and more recently her son was in Thomas’s class. 

Pearson praised Thomas for his long years of teaching and taking students on summer language trips. She also appreciated the attention Thomas gave her son, who has since completed a church mission to Argentina, and is fluent in Spanish. 

“Thomas helps his students love the language and culture just as much as he does. I am grateful for teachers like Señor Thomas who…want to help their students leave the classroom better students, and even better people, than when they arrived,” Pearson said.