NEW GLARUS, Wis. (WMTV)--- Most adults work 30 to 40 years and retire, but Wednesday’s Crystal Apple Award recipient has been teaching longer than most of us have been alive.
She was nominated once before in 1997. After more than 20 years, co-workers, friends and family tried again.
As you’ll see, she’s not just a teacher, she’s a pillar of the New Glarus community.
"Your 2019 Crystal Apple winner, Mrs. Fran Zimmerman! Grandma Fran,” announced Leigh Mills.
Grandma Fran had trouble hearing us over all the excitement, but with a little help from a friend we got her attention.
Fran Zimmerman said, “They already know that I love them. I give many, many hugs, and I have had their grandparents, their parents and now them. And my teachers are my family and the students are my grandchildren."
A standing ovation for a woman almost 84 years young.
Who has been teaching for 64 years.
“They always ask my age, and I tell them I’m 29. Haha, laughed Zimmerman.
Zimmerman said, “I've been in this community since 1962. I taught in one room schools just outside of New Glarus for seven years." She added, “I had I believe 15 students that first year."
Fran was the last to teach in the one-room Nessa School. It’s now a home in rural New Glarus.
"This was the main school and the chalkboard was against that back wall,” explained Zimmerman.
She taught grades one through eight, and keeps a scrapbook of her memories.
"It just means to me that I had a part in their life, and I hope that they cherish, as much as I do, the times we had together,” said Zimmerman.
She went on to say, "Many of my students are now teachers here. In fact the principal, Dr. Eichelkraut, 35 years ago was my 6th grade student, and now he's my boss. Hahaha!"
Fran started teaching sixth grade in a traditional school setting in 1962.
Fran retired in 1997.
You can still find her subbing almost every day of the week.
Laura Eicher said, “She gives her best every day. She's not just a warm body in a classroom. She is teaching. She's going to make sure those students wherever they are kindergarten through seniors are getting the best education they can get because she's there that day."
Not only is she a teacher, she's also their biggest cheerleader. Throwing parties for every home football game, attending the boys basketball state championship, and watching the team win their first ever state title!
Patrick said, “She doesn't need to be there. She’s I’m sure been to plenty of them, but she keeps coming, keeps supporting and it's great to have her."
Ellie said, “When you're playing games or at games watching, you always see her in the stands. She's always there."
Mills asked, “And how much longer are you going to be here?" Fran answered, “Well they tell me if I'm not able to walk, they have wheelchairs. Haha! And that I will be here forever. So we'll see! Haha!"
Grandma Fran's impact is so great. The New Glarus EMS chief not only attended her surprise assembly, but also organized the nomination.
The school also credits Fran for started a 6th grade outdoor education program they still do to this day.
Wednesday’s first honorable mention goes to Lynn Buyarski. A family and consumer education teacher at Oregon High School who is in her 52nd year of teaching the same class. I bet her and Fran would have a lot to talk about!
The second honorable mention goes to Ginny Peterson, a 4-k teacher in the Barneveld School District. She received many letters and a former students organized a petition with more than 120 signatures in support of her nomination.