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Niwot High School retirees


Photo by Jennifer Simms NHS IB Spanish teacher Susan Hartman looks forward to learning another language when she retires.

The end of the school year is always full of emotion as graduating students say farewell and transition to the next phase of their lives. These final days are especially poignant for the three Niwot High School (NHS) teachers who will retire at the end of the school year.

Tom Kajiwara: Physical Education

In 2000, Tom Kajiwara was a stay-at-home dad when former NHS principal Dennis Daly invited him to join the football coaching staff. During that year a food science position opened up unexpectedly and Kajiwara volunteered to fill the gap. And when the head football coach retired, Kajiwara was hired to fill his PE spot.

In addition to being a PE teacher, Kajiwara served as the defensive coordinator for NHS football from 2000-2009, and later coached at Erie and Mead High Schools. As a dad, he always kept his springtime open, though, to coach his own children’s teams.

A highlight for Kajiwara from his time at NHS was the Iron Works 2 weightlifting class he designed. “I got to do a lot of experimental stuff with weight training,” he said of the class. “I gave them workouts that were so hard they’ll always remember me,” he joked.

“It was fun to work with a lot of the elite athletes,” Kajiwara said, noting that he appreciated being able to develop a special bond with students outside of the football program.

When asked what he plans to do in retirement, Kajiwara said, “I love to fly fish so I’m going to try to do some of that. When my wife retires in a year or two we plan to take a month and go spend it somewhere.” In addition, Kajiwara hopes to teach technology or education at Metro State a couple days a week.

Susan Hartman: Spanish

Susan Hartman began teaching 21 years ago, when she left the fitness industry to teach Spanish at Longmont High School. In 2003 she transferred to NHS to be part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in which she has taught Spanish levels 1, 2, and 4.

During her time at NHS, Hartman also sponsored the Spanish club, which gave students an opportunity to practice the language in a casual, conversational setting.

For Hartman, the highlight from her time at NHS was the day the committee from the Eleanor Venture travel grant interrupted her class to present her with a huge cardboard check for $3,500. The grant, sponsored by the Education Foundation of the St. Vrain Valley, enabled Hartman and colleague Jennifer Shopland to spend three weeks in Peru, where they lived with a host family and studied the language and culture.

As she looks forward to retirement, Hartman plans to visit her daughter in California. She also hopes to learn a new language, possibly French or Italian, by taking classes at CU or Front Range, and then travel to countries where she can apply her new skills. “I might sub. I might teach at Front Range. I’ll just see what happens,” Hartman said with a smile.

Chris Buzas: Attendance Secretary

During the years her three children were students at NHS, Chris Buzas volunteered in a number of capacities at the school, including soccer team mom, student directory coordinator, and office assistant.

Photo by Jennifer Simms Attendance secretary Chris Buzas will always remember the amazing students at NHS.

In 2005, when the district transitioned from parent volunteers to paraprofessional staff in the office, Buzas applied for the job. For three years she answered phones in the counseling and main offices, and in 2008 transitioned into her current attendance secretary role.

Buzas will always remember the time she was voted staff member of the year by the senior class. In addition, she enjoyed going to the students’ plays and musicals and knowing the kids on stage. “That’s the best thing about working with students,” Buzas said. “They’re just so amazing.”

Buzas’s oldest daughter and grandchildren live in Arvada, and she and her husband Eli look forward to relocating there after she retires. Once settled, they aim to hit the road, planning driving trips to Florida, Alaska, her home state of Michigan and a visit to her son in New York.


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