Educator takes a second attempt at retirement

Irmalee Schumacher, a teacher for small children and advocate for education is handing off the torch into able hands. (Jennifer Blue)

Taking a second try at retirement, Irmalee Schumacher made the decision to officially hand her duties over. Schumacher taught preschool, kindergarten, and second grade at Williams Elementary School for 16 years before retiring the first time. But Schumacher couldn’t stay away for long, and has worked for Colusa County Office of Education nearly two decades as the 3+ Club Coordinator.

On Monday, June 10, CCOE staff held a farewell lunch for Schumacher. Although her dedication to her students is powerful, Schumacher felt it was time to hand over the reigns to someone else.

Jennifer Jelavich, literacy and public relations coordinator, will be taking over the program.

Stepping back and looking at her successor, Schumacher feels confident that her beloved program is going into good hands.

“I’m just really pleased because I think she’s got everything it takes,” Schumacher said.

Although Schumacher recognizes that many hands are eager to help, including the Lion’s Club that help each year to set up and tear down the 3+ Club’s big event at the start of the Colusa County Fair, there comes a time to give it up.

True to the essence of her spirit of teaching, Schumacher had taken Jelavich under her wing so that the program continues on without skipping a beat.

“You have to let someone take over,” Schumacher said. “You have to show somebody what you’ve done, what you love. And you have to teach or show them what can be done, then give them the chance to do it. Because then you’ve got fresh ideas, and you’ve got fresh life. I’m watching (Jelavich), and I’m thinking I was like that with that energy. So you have to pass the torch.”

Jelavich said Schumacher was dedicated, organized, and fun, and that Jelavich has big shoes to fill.

“She is a very special person,” Jelavich said. “Within the first five minutes of meeting her, I felt like I knew her forever. She has that magical touch with everyone. She’s passionate about education and these kids.”

The 3+ Club was started by Superintendent of Schools Kay Spurgeon in 1999. Schumacher has been with the program from the beginning.

“I just followed up with the idea to make it so the kids could be recognized,” Schumacher said. “That’s the whole objective to let them know that we’re so proud of them. We want the word to be spread in Colusa County that it really helps to get good grades because we really will reward you for that.”

The rewards are gifts that are given to the 3+ Club students at the beginning of the Colusa County Fair. With Jelavich learning the ropes, the two visited many businesses as an effort to raise the money for the incentive gifts for the youth. Schumacher puts a tremendous amount of thought and care into the gifts, purchasing as many as they can locally.

“Everything that’s donated goes right back to the kids,” Shumacher said. “And that’s something we want to say, ‘We appreciate this, here’s something for you.’ And now of course, we’ve been able to raise a lot more money and it’s been wonderful. People in our community have just opened up.”

Schumacher’s desire to see students succeed is derived from her own experiences.

When Schumacher was a student at Cal Polly, starting a young family slowed her momentum. Schumacher was so determined that one semester, she drove 46 miles on winter roads to satellite campuses. For her senior project, she would commute to San Luis Obispo from Colusa County.

Schumacher eventually graduated and obtained her teaching credential.

“Don’t give up. Don’t give up, it’s worth it,” is Schumacher’s sagely advice.

Schumacher believes in the power of education, even if it is long term.

“The things that are going to get you through life are not if you caught that football or scored that touchdown,” she said. “You’ll have that memory for the rest of your life and we’re proud of you for doing that. But you know, it’s what you learn, your education, and where it’s going to take you. And that’s what we need to recognize in these kids. Those are the things that are going to help you.”

Although Schumacher has offered to help in the future regarding the 3+ Club, she looks forward to traveling to see family, canning, and working in her yard with her newfound free time.