The children kept it interesting for Diana Ault and Melanie Markel, and they both said they had good co-workers.
But after 30 years of teaching for Ault and 33 for Markel, they both decided it was time to retire from Brownstown Elementary School.
“I would have to say I will miss the kids the most because it’s something new every day; it’s a challenge every day,” Ault said. “It is not a boring job. You are not stuck in a rut doing the same thing. Second-graders keep you on your toes, and I will greatly miss my co-workers. I have been blessed to teach with the best people.”
Story continues below gallery
Markel said she also was fortunate to have a positive experience.
“It’s just always a surprise. You never know what (kids) are going to say; you just never know,” she said. “It has been very rewarding, and it has been an honor for me. I’ve met so many kind, kind people.”
Ault said her experience of going through Brownstown schools and graduating in 1978 sparked her interest in a teaching career.
“From Day 1, I always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I had good influences at Brownstown schools, and that’s what led me into teaching.”
She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University. She applied for jobs at a few schools, but when she got the call to teach at Brownstown Elementary, she couldn’t pass it up.
“We’re like a family here,” she said. “I wouldn’t have ever thought I would even desire to move to a different school or anything. I knew I would always be here.”
Ault started teaching kindergarten before spending 13 years at the first-grade level and then finishing out her career teaching second grade.
“I love the primary-age kids,” she said. “You never know what they are going to say, and every day is a new adventure. That is the truth.”
She said changes through the years include more paperwork for teachers and more demands put on children at a young age.
“Children come out of kindergarten reading,” she said. “It used to be, when I taught first grade, you taught them to read in first grade. Now, they come out of kindergarten reading, most of them do.”
Ault’s husband, Greg, retired five years ago after teaching 34 years at Seymour High School. She said it was an easy decision to make this year.
“He does some traveling, and I’m going to join him,” she said. “Our children are grown — one is married, and our other one is going to be graduating from Eastern Kentucky — and it’s time to make a new chapter in our lives.”
Greg Ault taught history, and he and his wife both have an interest in that subject, especially Civil War history.
“We have lots of places that we want to go — Gettysburg and Richmond, Virginia; and Charleston is our favorite place,” Diana Ault said. “We have been (to those places), but there are lots more that I need to go to. I will have plenty of time, and I’m going to love every minute of it.”
When it comes time for a new school year in August, Diana Ault said, she will be glad to not have to wake up to an alarm clock.
“That’s the best part of all,” she said with a smile.
Markel also is a Brownstown alumna, graduating in 1970. She then went to Ball State University for two years before transferring to the University of Alabama and earning a bachelor’s degree in 1974.
She married Joseph Markel on July 6, 1974, and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. While working toward her master’s degree at the University of Louisville, she taught students with learning disabilities at Slaughter Elementary School for a year.
Melanie Markel said she went into education to teach in a regular classroom. But at the time, teachers were guaranteed a position if they picked up hours in learning disabilities, which then was a new field.
“Once I got into it, it was rewarding, yet it was challenging,” she said. “But because of that, I feel it has made me a better teacher in the regular classroom because I can pick up on those children and then know how to help them. That has been a blessing.”
In the winter of 1976, the couple moved to Brownstown, and Melanie Markel taught half-days at Vallonia Elementary School during the 1977-78 school year. She taught at Brownstown Central Middle School for a year and in the fall of 1985 moved to the elementary to teach first grade. She said she was drawn to that level because of her first-grade teacher, Gladys Martin.
“Seeing the spark of children that are learning to read, that was probably one of the most important things in my mind and why I wanted to teach first grade,” she said. “Reading is big because if you can’t read, you can’t do anything else.”
Early in her career, Melanie Markel said she did a lot more teaching of basic skills, including how to read. But with all-day kindergarten now available, most kids come to her knowing how to read, and many of them also know how to use a computer.
“Some of them know more than me,” she said, laughing.
Melanie Markel said the thought of retirement entered her mind a couple of years ago, and she decided it was finally time. Her four daughters and five grandchildren all live out of state, so she plans to do a lot of traveling to see them.
“My grandchildren are getting older — my oldest is 12 — and I want to be able to go down for birthdays and spend more time with my family,” she said.
Melanie Markel said she also might be a substitute in the school library next school year.
“It has just been a wonderful experience, and I’ve just been very happy here,” she said. “It has been an honor, and I will miss it.”
Filling a void
Principal Tom McCool said it’s tough to lose two faculty members with that much experience.
But he appreciates their service and wishes them the best.
“Naturally, it’s going to be a void because they are just part of the community,” he said. “All of the hundreds and hundreds of kids that they’ve gone through, both of them are very dedicated and just awesome teachers. Both of them have been child-focused, and truly, the kids were in the center of everything they have done.”
Name: Diana Ault
Education: Brownstown Central High School (1978); Indiana University (bachelor’s degree in elementary education, 1982; master’s degree, 1987)
Occupation: Recently retired after 30 years at Brownstown Elementary School
Family: Husband, Greg Ault; sons, Bryan Ault and Andrew Ault
Name: Melanie Markel
Education: Brownstown Central High School (1970); University of Alabama (bachelor’s degree in education, 1974); University of Louisville (master’s degree, 1976)
Occupation: Recently retired after 33 years of teaching, including 32 at Brownstown Elementary School
Family: Husband, the late Joseph Markel; daughters, Courtney Bishop, Hilary Conway, Ashley Greenberg and Brittney Schelich; five grandchildren, Keller Bishop, Connor Bishop, Parker Bishop, Collin Conway and Dylan Greenberg