Helen Gaede, the long-time director of the Shafter Kiddie Kollege, will be retiring at the end of the month, closing out a 49-year career.
Gaede began at the school when the Shafter Mennonite Brethren Church decided to open a preschool at the church. Gaede started helping out a couple of days a week with the kids.
This grew into an every day commitment, then was taken up a notch when she went back to school to get her early education degree.
She began teaching at the school and did so for the next 18 years. Then, about 30 years ago, the director of the Kiddie Kollege had to step down because of health issues. Gaede then decided to take this on and went to Bakersfield College to complete her degree in administration, allowing her to become the facility's next director.
Gaede has a special relationship with the kids, as well as her fellow staff members, giving them a positive role model to follow. Ariel Smith, a teacher at the school, said that Gaede has taught her much while working with her. "I was a student teacher under her while I was going to school to get my degree. She has taught me how to remain calm, and communicate with the kids with a patience that is not taught in regular classes."
Gaede said that she will miss the children the most when she retires. "I love them so much, this will be the hardest part of retiring," said Gaede. She said that she will use this time after retirement to maybe do some traveling, as well as catching up on some things at the house that need attention. "I will also maybe do a little volunteer work."
This statement is a little misleading because Gaede already fills her spare time with a variety of volunteer activities, including being president of the Shafter Historical Society. She is involved in helping her community in so many ways. The city honored this hard-working woman in 2018 when they awarded her with the award for an individual in education at the Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet.
There will be a retirement celebration for Gaede at the Mennonite Church on Sunday, May 22, beginning at 1 p.m. Pastor Pat Coyle said that the celebration will be held in the Fellowship Center courtyard, beginning at 1 p.m., giving residents who attend other churches in town the time to be able to attend.