SHERIDAN — A couple that has given a combined 55 years to Sheridan students will bid their classrooms adieu this June when they retire.
Lorna Poulsen, who teaches history at Sheridan Junior High School, and Jeff Poulsen, an art teacher at Sheridan High School, said it’s time to start a new chapter of their lives.
“We always said that we weren’t going to be just hanging on just for a salary,” Jeff Poulsen said, “and when we left we wanted to have the same enthusiasm we did for education as when we started. And we’re still there, so.”
Lorna Poulsen has taught for 25 years and her husband for 30. But it’s not just instruction that the two have contributed to the school district. She helps lead the middle school chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and he has coached basketball, golf and served as a yearbook advisor.
Like many in Sheridan, the couple is well connected to their community. Lorna Poulsen has taught childbirth classes to several Sheridan parents whose kids later wound up in her classroom and her husband has students from decades ago who still stay in touch with him. One of Jeff Poulsen’s former students even returned as a student teacher under his guidance.
Principal Mitch Craft said the junior high would miss Lorna Poulsen “without a doubt.”
“Lorna Poulsen is a fine educator and a key leader in our building,” he wrote in an email to The Sheridan Press. “This is an individual who has stayed at the cutting edge of her craft to the very end.”
Craft added that she has helped improve the school through her work mentoring fellow teachers.
At the high school, Principal Brent Leibach said Jeff Poulsen, too, would be missed.
“Jeff has always understood the ‘formula’ for being an outstanding teacher,” Leibach wrote. “He has the perfect balance of high rigor and positive student relationships. […] We will miss his presence, his commitment to excellence, and his insight into how schools work and how students learn.”
The Poulsens grew up in nearby Cody, and as Jeff Poulsen pointed out, that town’s high school shares the SHS mascot, “So we’ve been Broncs all our lives.”
While the two didn’t know each other well in high school, they did graduate in the same class. Now that they’re retiring at the same time, it’s come full circle.
They plan to travel more during retirement. The couple’s trips to Italy— “for his art and my history,” Lorna Poulsen explained — has left them with the itch to experience more adventures. Lorna Poulsen also hopes to volunteer with an organization like the Legacy Pregnancy Center.
“We both will turn 60 this year and I think some of our friends are jealous because we get to retire at this age,” she said.
But with health insurance costs as high as they are, the two will need to return to work at some point. And Sheridan won’t be their home forever.
The Poulsens’ daughter, Kristin, and son, Dustin, both live in Bozeman, Montana, and like their parents, work in schools. Lorna and Jeff Poulsen have purchased a house in the Montana college town and plan to move there, eventually.
With a fourth grandchild due to be born in just five weeks, one can hardly blame them.
But stepping away from Sheridan and from their school days won’t be easy. The Poulsens agree that the relationships they’ve built — with students, fellow teachers, parents and administrators — will be hard to leave behind.
Lorna Poulsen said one of the most powerful moments for her as a teacher is watching students shift from disliking school to liking it, when they feel they’ve connected with an adult who cares about them.
“But they have somebody that they want to come to school to get to know and who’s invested in their lives,” she said. “And to me that’s more important than any accolade we could ever get or any other achievement we could ever receive.