Jeanne Thielmann retired after 13 years of teaching special education to grades 9-12 at Rocky Mountain Middle/High School. Though earning her teaching credentials from MSU-Billings in 1974, it was many years before Thielmann had the opportunity to follow what she later learned was more than just a job for her.
“I got my teaching certificate right out of college but never taught,” she explained. “I got married and we moved to different places and I ended up working in advertising and marketing.”
Married shortly after college, Thielmann eventually moved to Seattle with her husband Richard, where she worked in the “corporate world” for many years before moving in 2000 to be near her parents in Cowley and her brother, who was a resident at New Horizons Care Center in Lovell.
Though her parents were from Cowley, she was raised in Billings. After her father died in 1996, her mother and brother moved back to Cowley. Some years later, she decided they could use help, so she and her husband made the decision to move the family to Cowley, too. She said it was her husband, who was willing to give up a job he loved so that she could be closer to her family, who made that move possible.
“He left a job that he really liked and I left a job that I really didn’t really like,” she explained. “So, we sold our home in Seattle and came here and we have been happy here.”
She worked as a substitute teacher for the first year before being offered a job as a paraprofessional. As a para, she discovered how much she enjoyed working with special needs students and decided to go back to school to earn her certification in that area. After two years of study at Northwest College, she became eligible for the next special education job that came along.
“Being a para I found I really liked working with the kids and I wanted to teach, which is what I wanted to do all along. That’s why I got my teaching credential in the first place,” she said. “As an English teacher, I really enjoyed bringing English to my students. I also enjoyed the individual work you do with students in the special ed area.”
Theilmann, who is certified to teach English in the state of Wyoming, said she especially enjoys bringing the simple joy of reading a book from cover to cover to her students.
She said she plans to substitute teach in her retirement, because she enjoys working with the kids and knows that she would miss them otherwise.
“I won’t miss the kids, because I’ll be there with them,” she said. “I plan to continue working as a substitute teacher, which will allow me to just teach and not deal with all the paperwork required.”
In her retirement, she said she hopes to also find the time to finish two novels that she has been working on over the years. One novel geared toward young adult readers, was inspired by a trip she took to Belize where she learned about the Mayan Indians. The other is a novel geared toward women about the lives of sisters, with a working title “Daughters of Stone House.” Both novels are nearing completion, but she doesn’t have a publisher lined up yet.
“I have two novels that I put away 13 years ago that I hope to get back to,” she said.
She said her husband, who is recovering from an accident, would like to take an Alaskan cruise with her someday. She said a tropical cruise sounds more appealing to her. She enjoys collecting interesting birdhouses and working in her garden and said she is doing a lot more of those activities in her retirement. The couple also likes to camp on their property in the local mountains and she hopes to do more of that in the future, too.
By Patti Carpenter