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A lifetime of caring for kids


An educational legacy is ending at Havre's First Lutheran Church.

Jo Martin is retiring after teaching 4- adn 5-year-olds at the church's preschool and day care center for 22 years.

"I will miss it," she said Thursday. "The children are very loving. They can be little characters, but they are very loving."

The center sponsored a reception for Jo from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday in the church fellowship hall. Visitors ranging from toddlers in the day care to longtime members of the church came to wish her well.

Julee Christian, the director of the center who teaches the 4 and 5-year-old preschool classes with Jo, said it won't be easy to get used to her not being there.

"We've been together for 20 years," Julee said, adding that when she first started teaching at the preschool, Martin was her mentor.

"She's a master teacher," Julee said.

Jo has been very popular, she added. Many families have sent all of their children to the preschool so they could be in her class, she said.

Kendra Mader, 16, is from one of those classes. All of her brothers and sisters have attended Jo's class. Her youngest brother, Nicholas, just finished his year with Jo as a 5-year-old.

Kendra said going to Martin's class was a pleasure.

"She's always really nice - super-duper nice," she said.

Molly Proctor, 15, said Martin always had fun things to do in her class. Some of the things she remembers best are art shows and singing programs.

"And everybody but me would sing," she added.

Kendra's 14-year-old sister, Ashley, said it's sad that other children won't have the chance to take Jo's classes.

"She's such a fun teacher," Ashley added.

Jo's teaching experience goes back almost 30 years. She taught first-grade in Missoula for six years until her husband, Ron, graduated from the University of Montana Law School.

The Martins then moved to Havre, where Ron started practicing law. Since then, she estimates that she has taught about 650 preschoolers at the church center.

Ron died in September, 1998.

Jo said she will stay in Havre, although she plans to travel.

"I like Havre. The people are very friendly," she said.

"I've always found plenty to do," Jo added.

Julee said the position Jo has taught in for so many years has been filled. Christine Bachmeier will take Jo's place, teaching the 4 and 5-year-olds, and Nan Miller will continue to teach the 3-year-olds.

Jo said not being with the kids is what she will miss most.

"They're loads of fun. I could probably write a book on knock-knock jokes."s."


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