Kolasa to depart after 33 years
With roots stretching at least three generations deep, few have been as intricately connected to Hanover Elementary School as Education Support Professional Nancy Kolasa.
Kolasa attended Hanover as an elementary school student, and eventually returned to work there after graduating from Buffalo High School. Over her 33 years as a staff member she has watched her own children and grandchildren grow up in the same academic setting.
“I have not ventured far, let’s put it that way,” Kolasa said with a laugh. “But it has been a really good job.”
That job will come to an end, along with the school year, when Kolasa retires in June.
“We love her,” said Rebecca Hanson, a first- and second-grade teacher at Hanover. “She is a huge part of this school community. Besides being a really good worker, she is a good person. She won’t just be missed because of her work; she’ll be missed because of who she is.”
Nicole Meints, another first- and second-grade teacher, agreed.
“She is truly one of the best paras a teacher could ask for!” Meints said. “She is an extension of me outside of the classroom in a small group or one-on-one setting. I know that Nancy has the experience and skills necessary to help students learn and grow in the same way a certified teacher would.”
As an instructional ESP, Kolasa provides extra math and reading assistance to students in kindergarten through second grade. She also provides assessment services and interventions to diagnose and address areas of academic need.
“I can give her any task and she does it well,” Meints said. “She puts her heart into helping kids succeed. Nancy has been an essential part of Hanover’s success through the years!”
Was there a point in time when Kolasa knew she wanted to make a career of working with children?
“Oh, yes,” Kolasa said. “I think I knew back in high school when I took a child development course, because then we actually went into the school and I worked with second-graders. I should have known then that that’s what I should have gone into, but I always thought I wanted to be a hairdresser, so I went to cosmetology school instead.”
But Kolasa had second thoughts before finishing cosmetology school, and life intervened. Marriage and her own children came along, and Kolasa opted to host a home daycare, then worked for eight years at Children’s Country Preschool across the street from Hanover Elementary. During that time she volunteered at the school, and she was hired on permanently in September of 1990 to help with the Assurance of Mastery program.
“I don’t remember coming in for an interview, because I think they already knew me so well from volunteering,” Kolasa said. “So yes, I think it was meant to be, to work with kids.”
Favorite aspects of the job
What kept Kolasa coming back year after year was the relationships she built with the students she served.
“I loved getting the hugs, hoping and seeing that they were making progress and that I was doing some good,” she said.
Hanover Elementary Principal Brad Koltes said that aside from Kolasa’s personal connections with staff and students, her skill was highly prized.
“I think she has really enjoyed the instructional piece, helping kids improve academically,” he said. “There is a lot of knowledge there. Teachers trust her. She knows different intervention strategies; she knows the different assessments to give the kids. The teachers can just give it to her and know she’s going to take care of it.”
“She is really good at what she does. She will be very difficult to replace,” Hanson said. “It will take a lot of years for someone to get to the point where she is, to do what she is able to do. When you say you need something done she does it quickly, she does it efficiently, she does it well. She’s incredible, really.”
Kolasa also helps with outdoor and lunch supervision, and Koltes said she has been effective in those capacities through the right combination of firmness and care.
“She has that good balance of holding kids accountable, but being patient with them and understanding that they are kids,” he said.
At a wider school level, Kolasa said some highlights of her years included large events like the Festival of Nations, decorating the hallways for school carnivals, and track and field days.
“Those are some of the things I’ll remember the most,” she said.
While Kolasa still enjoys her work, she is looking forward to a more relaxed schedule going forward.
“Some people want to travel when they retire. I’m not really a traveler,” she said. “I’m a homebody, and I have a lot of projects I can do at home. I’d like to get back into my scrap booking and more reading. I don’t have any particularly big plans.”
It’s also very possible that she will return to the school in a different capacity.
“It probably won’t seem real until next fall,” Kolasa said of retirement. “I’m just trying to enjoy the rest of the year. Then I’m planning on probably volunteering.”
Her co-workers said that would be a welcome development, particularly if she is able to help train in some replacements.
“Next year we’re getting some new ESPs, and we’re hoping she can come in and show them what to do because she’s been so great at it for so long,” said Hanson.
“It is bittersweet to see Nancy go, but we are so happy for her and we are hopeful we will still see her from time to time as a volunteer,” said Koltes.
- This is the first of a series of feature articles highlighting BHM staff members who are retiring this spring after serving the district for 30 or more years.