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Kindergarten teacher who touched many lives retires

Published June 15, 2011 3:03 pm

Education • She recognizes that failure is part of success.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Carolyn Zaugg is the kind of kindergarten teacher all parents hope their children have.

Her gentle demeanor, honed teaching skills, fun learning tools and challenging curriculum have through the years guided hundreds of children in Salt Lake City School District's Extended Learning Program kindergarten.

Zaugg, who taught for 27 years, recently retired, ending a career borne of love of learning, knowledge and student growth.

"She never talks down to kindergarteners," said Marina O'Neill, who has had two children in Mrs. Zaugg's class. "She instead treats them as the intelligent, thoughtful, unique individuals they all are and challenges them to develop themselves more fully."

Zaugg stresses that mistakes are a part of learning. Many of her students are perfectionists, and making mistakes is hard on them. "You have to make mistakes or you don't learn," she said. "You have to stretch and sometimes you fall a little."

She has inspired students and parents alike. Marilyn Taft, a parent and classroom volunteer, became a teacher after Zaugg encouraged her to substitute when she went on vacation.

"She left me incredible plans and even the jokes to tell when I was teaching," Taft said. "Had [Zaugg] never asked me, I would not be doing what I'm doing now."

One of the highlights each year is taking her kindergarteners to Mueller Park in Bountiful where they learn about leaves and rocks.

"We walk in a stream bed and get our feet wet," Zaugg said. "It's fun to see the kids learning things in nature and delighting in the sunshine."

She also enjoys reading stories to the children and having "deep" discussions.

Kindergarten student Eli Johnson said he will miss "Mrs. Zaugg" more than anything else in kindergarten. "She is really funny, and she is really smart," Eli said.

His favorite activity of the year was the class Olympics, in which students participated in hula hoop, jump rope and long jump.

"[Zaugg] encourages kids to be engaged, hardworking, experimental, and silly and to find joy in discovery — and in making mistakes," said Eli's mother, Susan Anderson.

As a child, Zaugg loved school.

"I thought school was the most fun thing in the world, and so I thought the only way I could keep having that fun is to become a teacher," she said.

She decided to retire now so she and her husband can travel. She may even write a children's book.

A farewell party at which scores of parents, colleagues and former students attended was held recently at Hawthorne Elementary to honor Zaugg's devotion and hard work. Whether still at Hawthorne or gone on to other schools, alums came to thank her and share memories. Kids laughed as they scoured class photos from previous years, finding their younger selves to cut out for name tags.

In the library, tables were spread with scrapbooks, student work and keepsakes from Zaugg's career, including her years at Lowell Elementary School in the Avenues, which closed in 2003. Students flipped through books to find their kindergarten animal essay or photos from field trips and Halloween parades. Families waited in line for hugs and photos with a sometimes-teary Zaugg.

Now that she's retired, Zaugg plans to do away with her alarm clock. "I want to wake up when I'm through sleeping."

She will miss parents and fellow teachers, but mostly the children. She recited a much-loved children's book, Time of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey to explain her feelings about retiring: "A little bit sad about the place you are leaving, a little bit glad about the place you are going.






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