WARRENSBURG — When Ken Hatcher retires from Warrensburg-Latham High School this summer, he's leaving the only school where he's ever taught.
“I student-taught here in the spring of 1985 and I've been here ever since,” said Hatcher, who has been an administrator for 18 years. After hiring on as a science teacher in the fall of 1985, he spent 16 years as a classroom teacher before deciding to pursue the assistant principal position.
“That was the first time I did a job interview,” Hatcher said. “I didn't have to interview for the (teaching job). They said, 'If you want it, it's yours.'”
After a year as assistant principal, he became principal of the middle school before becoming high school principal.
“It's been great to watch the development around here,” he said. “At this point, our high school has as good, or better, facilities as any small school in the area. I've been in on the planning of all that. We sat down and designed the gym, the cafeteria, the stage area, the classrooms. It's really something you can take pride in when you're in the process at those planning stages. I'm proud of the physical school and of the teachers.”
Many of the teachers on staff now, he said, are people he has hired.
After retirement, he plans to join his wife, Cheryl, in her insurance agency, Atteberry-Oldweiler Insurance. Last winter he earned his property and casualty license and is in the process of getting his life insurance license. After years in education, it's going to be an adjustment.
“I'm going to sell insurance part-time and play a lot of golf,” Hatcher said. He and his wife bought a home on the Southside Country Club course which they're renovating and when that's complete, that will be their permanent home, he said.
He's looking forward to having a more flexible schedule after so many years of living “bell to bell,” he said.
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“I've loved every minute of my job and I've been fortunate to stay in a job I liked and retire from that job still feeling up on the times,” Hatcher said. “I'm going out on my own terms and moving into something new.”
His successor is Jonathan Downing, who served as principal at Parsons School in Decatur before leaving to work for the Illinois Education Association. However, Downing said, he missed the interaction with kids.
“That's the main reason (for returning to a principal's job),” Downing said. “This job, I'm on the road a lot, I drive a lot, and one thing about me is, I'm a very energetic person. I get my energy from the kids.”
He's enjoyed his time with the IEA, he said, because he visited so many districts and learned much about how county schools work, as opposed to a larger district like Decatur. It invigorated him and gave him new ideas.
He was also an administrator at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Decatur, where he was a student himself once, and was ready to work with high school students next, he said.
“I'm pursuing a (certification in) superintendency,” Downing said. “One thing I'd like to do when I grow up is be a superintendent, so this will be a good job to get more in depth with the high school role, hands-on with the academic and getting them ready for college and their future, what happens after high school.”
The Downings have one son in college at Millikin University, one who will graduate this year and a daughter beginning high school. The youngest daughter is going into first grade.
“It educates you,” Downing said. “When you have your own kids, once they get older, I realized I could work with that age group. I learned that with our kids. I enjoy high school students, the way they think and having conversations with them.”