After decades with School District of Tomahawk, seven staff members say farewell
For the Tomahawk Leader
TOMAHAWK – Seven School District of Tomahawk staff members have retired or see retirement on the horizon after each had spent decades with the district.
Mike DeBels, Garth Gerstenberger, Marion Kohl, Jane Loretz, Mike Loretz, Michelle Maloney, and Michele Theut each reflected on their time in Tomahawk.
Mike DeBels began his 30-year career at the Tomahawk School District in 1991 as the Director of Buildings and Grounds. During his tenure, he oversaw the expansion of the middle school, elementary school, high school, and the new outdoor athletic facility.
Mike dedicated many years to coaching middle school cross country and middle school girls’ basketball, officiating sporting events in the area, and volunteering for Special Olympic events. He never missed an opportunity to chaperone field trips.
Mike misses the students and staff, and he especially enjoyed letting students who were having a bad day walk around the building and hang out with him, giving them a chance to unwind and learn new things about the school. He always went out of his way to do things for kids, teachers, and his staff even after school hours and on weekends.
Believe it or not, Mike especially misses “locker cleanout day.” Since retiring at the end of last September, Mike has spent time hunting, biking, kayaking, hiking, officiating, working on building projects, spending time with family, and visiting his kids.
Mike’s extensive knowledge about the workings of the school building and grounds will be greatly missed, as well as his quiet sense of humor and kindness.
Before spending 30 ½ years with the School District of Tomahawk, Garth Gerstenberger graduated from Edgar High School and earned his Associate degree from UW-Marathon County, his Bachelor’s from UW-Superior, and his Masters from Marion College. He also earned a Specialist degree from Mankato State and National Board Certification in mathematics.
Gerstenberger taught at Winter High School for a year and a half. From there, he spent one year at Guamani School in Guayama, Puerto Rico, and three years at Faribault Jr. High in Minnesota before arriving in Tomahawk.
With a total of 72 seasons under his belt, Gerstenberger coached a variety of sports in his career, including 33 years as a varsity golf coach at two schools, four years as both a varsity boys’ and a varsity girls’ basketball coach at two schools, one year as varsity cross country coach in Winter, three years as an assistant cross country coach at two schools, one year as an assistant track coach, and one year as an assistant volleyball coach. He has also been extensively involved in basketball, coaching at various levels for 33 years at four schools.
Gerstenberger also served on the Wisconsin High School Golf Coaches Association Board of Directors for six years and the WIAA golf advisory board three years. He has been a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Huddle Leader for eight years, and a church youth group leader for a decade.
Gerstenberger also earned some bragging rights over the years, having won the homecoming float six of eight years when teamed up with Mr. Janz as class advisor.
Looking back on his career, highlights Gerstenberger pointed out include starting up the district’s AP calculus and being part of a great math department since 1987; winning multiple conference championships as the head coach in golf and one in girls’ basketball; taking three teams and multiple individuals to the state tournament in golf; and taking a group of Tomahawk and Wausau West students on an outdoor adventure trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Marion Kohl is a lifelong resident of Tomahawk. She attended grades 1 through 6 at St. Mary’s School before graduating from Tomahawk High School in 1982. From there, she attended UW-Stout, graduating in 1986 with a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences.
Kohl began working as the Tomahawk Pool Director in Jan. 1987 and has held the post for 34 ½ years. However, she has been involved with the pool since it was built and opened in Sept. 1980. Kohl was one of the first high school lifeguards hired, and continued to work on and off through college. When she returned to Tomahawk, she began lifeguarding, teaching, and coaching with the swim club until she was hired as Director.
Serving as Pool Director, Kohl holds multiple certifications, including Lifeguarding, Lifeguarding Instructor, First Aid/CPR/AED, First Aid/CPR/AED Instructor, Water Safety Instructor, Water Safety Instructor Trainer, and Certified Pool Operator.
Kohl’s involvement in coaching swimming began when she served as an assistant coach with the Tomahawk Swim Club in the 1986-1987 and 1987-1988 seasons. She was the head coach of the club from the 1988-1989 season until the 2013-2014 season.
During the high school boys’ swim team’s inaugural season in 1988-1989, Kohl served as co-head coach. From 2004-2005 until the present, she has been the head coach of the team.
Kohl has been married to Rick Kohl, also a lifelong Tomahawk resident, for 36 years. The two have cared for a long line of Alaskan Malamutes.
“When I got out of college in 1986 and came home to Tomahawk, it was with the hopes of teaching in my field, but that wasn’t to be,” Kohl said. “Instead the pool door opened – a place I’d been as a district employee since its opening in 1980, and the water has always felt like home to me. Looking back, I’d like to thank all of the folks, from 2 to 92, that I’ve had the opportunity to serve at the pool over the years. All of those pool patrons, students and competitive swimmers are near and dear to my heart, and I’ve appreciated being able to offer a safe and fun place to be. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t give a shoutout specifically to the high school and college-age young adults that I’ve been privileged to train and work with as lifeguards, swimming instructors and assistant coaches over the years – it’s been my pleasure to have been your “boss,” but also to call so many of you my lifelong friends! It is bittersweet to retire at this point in our pool’s history, and I do hope that the current administration/school board remains as committed to running the facility for our school district and for our community as it had been for the past 41 years. As many folks know, ‘Best Fishes’ is how I normally sign my correspondence from the pool, so for one last time – Best Fishes, Everyone!”
Jane Loretz has been a teacher in the Tomahawk School District for 30 years, serving as a reading teacher, first and second grade teacher, and a primary multiage teacher. In 1998, she was part of a group of teachers that started the multiage program in the district.
“I have enjoyed watching the students learn and grow,” Loretz said. “I am honored to have been a part of so many students’ lives. I will miss the students’ energy and enthusiasm for learning. I am thankful for the friendships and opportunities that the school has given me over the past 30 years.”
In retirement, Loretz and her husband Mike plan on traveling and being adventurous.
Mike Loretz began his 33-year career in Tomahawk in 1988 after graduating from college. Loretz split his time between 6th and 7th grade geography and 3rd and 4th grades in the elementary school.
Loretz coached the high school track team for many years, as well as freshman girls’ basketball and freshman football. He also coached middle school football, basketball, and track.
“I raised my three children in this great community, and had the privilege to teach and coach all three,” Loretz said. “I truly enjoyed my time in Tomahawk, working with hundreds of great students and a wonderful and supportive staff. I would like to thank the Tomahawk community for allowing me to educate their children for so many years.”
Michelle Maloney has been a teacher with the School District of Tomahawk for her entire 34-year career. For her first ten years in Tomahawk, she was a special education teacher. Maloney has spent the last 24 years teaching third grade.
“My first years in special education were very challenging,” Maloney said. “I worked with a lot of siblings, and have a lot of memories of funny times with the kids and staff I worked with. I will mostly miss my close circle of wonderful friends made over the years, and the planning for the next thing in learning. But, I will be back subbing for a while and look forward to time with my family. Tomahawk School District is the best around!”
Michele Theut has taught at Tomahawk Elementary School for the past 20 years, instructing at many grade levels as a Reading Interventionist, a Reading Recovery Teacher, and for the past year, a Virtual School Instructor.
“Working with all the special students and their families has made my time in Tomahawk very rewarding,” she said. “Having the opportunity to collaborate with so many kind, caring and talented educators has made me feel part of a very special family.”
Theut said she will be leaving Tomahawk in the near future to move to Michigan to be closer to family. Her retirement plans include traveling, lots of reading, and enjoying time with family and friends.