SANDY— After more than 20 years of service, Mary Kaye Laabs-Johnson, director of Saint Thomas More preschool, is retiring.
The decision was not easy, she said, because she has been part of the school for almost 26 years.
Her journey at Saint Thomas More started when she heard about the program and enrolled her daughter, Heidi, who is now a collage graduate.
“Then I was asked to cover for the previous director and I accepted as a volunteer for one year,” Laabs-Johnson said.
That one year turned into 22. Over that time, the preschool grew from a very small center to one offering music, art, gross motor play, math, pre-reading, science, Bible stories, and beginning Spanish.
“This journey has been amazing. I have gotten to see many kids grow and become contributing and successful members of our society,” said Laabs-Johnson, who besides serving as the center’s director has been the PreK-4 teacher.
For her the most valuable treasure that she takes out of this journey at St. Thomas More is to see how those once young children are now adults and how the little ones learn, play and grow.
“I am going to really miss being here every day, but the time has come and, even though it is a bittersweet moment, I want every family to know that they hold a special place in my heart,” she said.
Fr. John Evans, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, said that despite knowing Laabs-Johnson for only about four years, seeing her service at the preschool has been very gratifying.
“She is a great leader,” Fr. Evans said. “We are truly going to miss her and wish her well.”
Fr. Evans also said that Laabs-Johnson cares for all the children with tons of love.
“She has seen many generations grow and that’s very special,” Fr. Evans said.
Tami Bernstein, director of faith formation at St. Thomas More Parish, shares the same feeling.
“Mary Kaye is a great human being. … I got to work with and for her in the preschool, and those were good times,” Bernstein said.
Jokingly, Bernstein said her only wish is that Laabs-Johnson would take her with her in her retirement.
“She deserves to enjoy life. … She has done so much for all here at St. Thomas,” Bernstein said.
In retirement, Laabs-Johnson plans to travel with her husband in an RV through the states, but she also hopes to frequently visit the preschool.
“I am going to really miss being here every day, but I am very grateful to have had the opportunity for this many years,” she said.