Malea Kruse has a hard time walking around Huntertown without being recognized. It’s no surprise people remember her, considering the impact she has had on generations of children.
Kruse, a former Northwest Allen County Schools elementary school teacher, retired this spring after 44 years of teaching — 33 of which were at Huntertown Elementary School where she also attended school as a child.
Kruse said she made the decision to retire in September, not knowing what changes could come after the planned opening of NACS’ newest elementary school, Aspen Meadow.
“I knew there would be a lot of transition and change,” Kruse said. “And it seemed silly for me to either stay here or go to a new building for a year or two and then retire, when other people that need to get into the profession could have that opportunity. It just seemed to me like the perfect time.”
Kruse taught for three years at Clinton Central School Corporation near Lafayette, before returning home to Allen County to teach at Perry Hill Elementary School for the next six years. In her 44-year career, she has taught third through sixth grade. She started teaching at Huntertown in 1978.
“It’s just home,” she said.
Both of Kruse’s parents and her siblings attended school at Huntertown, and her own children went to school there as well.
“The old Huntertown that I went to school at was two stories, it had sealed wooden floors, and I remember our cafeteria was down in the basement. It was old, but it had character,” Kruse laughed.
She noted she even remembers being able to purchase a ticket to go down the fire escape on the north side of the school during fall festivals.
“There was always fun involved,” she said.
Kruse taught fifth grade in the final years of her career. Her final two years at Huntertown were spent teaching in a mobile classroom, alongside teacher Dane Gerig, as a result of enrollment growth within the district.
“It has not been awful — it’s been an adventure,” she said. “I’d do it again. Whatever situations you’re given in life, you have to make the most of them, make it the best and move on, and that’s kind of what I feel we’ve done. And I think that attitude carries over to the kids. Our kids loved it out here.”
Kruse leaves Huntertown with the most years of service of any current faculty member.
“I’ve always felt like you need a combination of experience,” she said. “The young bring so much to the table as well. I have learned so much from the young pups I’ve taught with over the years. I was a young person at one time, and I remember that year so well because the teachers kind of took me under their wings and I learned so much from them. I love it when we have passionate young people that want to come into the profession.”
Kruse said she sees retirement as her “next big adventure.”