Cheryl Stickler is retiring after 11 years at the Haines School and more than 30 years in education. (Abbey Collins)

Cheryl Stickler has been working in the Haines Borough School District for over 10 years. And her history with the school goes back a lot further than that. Now, the assistant principal and curriculum director says it’s time to retire.

Stickler has three rules for her students.

“The first rule is to be kind,” says Stickler. “And the second rule is to be kind. And the third rule is to be kind.”

She’s been working at the Haines School since 2006. But her first experience there dates back much further.

“I lived in Haines as a small child,” says Stickler. “I went to Haines School, Haines Borough School District, from Kindergarten through third grade. So in many ways it was like coming home.”

Most recently, she served as curriculum director and assistant principal for Kindergarten through fourth grade. She’s held other administrative roles over the years.

Stickler’s teaching career goes back to 1986, when she started working as a para-educator.

“And when my son went to school full time, as a first-grader, I went back to school to get my teaching certificate,” she says. “Before I got married I was a music education major. I had one semester left, which was my student teaching, and I met my husband and so we got married.”

Stickler’s husband worked in logging camps around the state. That’s where she taught after getting her certification. A job as the head teacher in Klukwan brought her back to the Chilkat Valley. Sticker values her time at the Klukwan School.

In the early years of her career, Stickler taught in logging camps around the state. Her background is in music education. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl Stickler.)

“We learned a lot about the importance of learning and growing in the place where you are, and being present in the place where you are,” says Stickler. “And just walk with your eyes open and your ears open and be ready to learn at any moment. It was amazing. The people in Klukwan are so supportive of education. Our students were very, very well cared for.”

That’s where she went on her favorite field trip ever.

“It was in February,” says Stickler. “We went for a week up to Klukshu. And we had a cultural exchange with First Nations people. We learned how to set net under the ice. We were on Dezadeash in February. The weather was beautiful. I have pictures of the students fishing in their short sleeves in February on Dezadeash.”

While in Klukwan, Stickler earned her administrative certificate. So, after seven years, she came to the Haines School.

“Very much like Klukwan, the community of Haines truly believes in strong education,” says Stickler. “And that – it’s so important that our students are supported that way, because that’s how they’re going to meet success is when community stands behind them, stands underneath them, stands beside them.”

After more than 30 years of working in different schools, Stickler still remembers a piece of wisdom from her past.

“I read a book when I was – golly – I think I was 18 or 19 years old,” says Stickler. “It’s written by Suzuki, who does the Suzuki violin method. He wrote: “the only limitations children have are those we place on them.” So if we think as adults, oh that child’s too young to do that. Oh, that child can’t do that. We are placing those limits on them.”

Since she started in Haines 11 years ago, Stickler says the district has evolved.

“I’m leaving a different place than it was when I entered,” she says. “And that’s how it should be. As I’m exiting, we have new energy, new ideas, new administrators who are ready and gung-ho and super excited to take it to that next level.”

Right now, Stickler’s immediate plan is to enjoy the summer.

“It looks like we’re off to a beautiful summer. I’m going to train my dog and my dog and I are going to load up in the car and we’re going to drive down to my father’s in Wyoming,” says Stickler. “And I’ll be there probably through most of the fall, and then I’m going to come back.”

What will she miss the most about the school? The kids.

“This can be a very stressful job,” says Stickler. “There are days when I go and I visit the classrooms. And I get to see those children, and I see that joy that they have in learning. And it just reminds me, that is why we’re here. That is what our job is.”

As Stickler wraps up her time at the Haines School, she wants the students to remember one piece of advice.

“I teach the younger students, the only reason we have hands -the only reason – is to help others and to help ourselves,” she says. “So using your heart, using your head, using your hands. Make your world a better place. And be kind. Be kind, be kind.”

Stickler is not done working. When she gets back to Haines, she plans to go into educational consulting. Due to budget constraints, the district does not plan to fill Stickler’s role when she leaves. The principal, director of student services, and superintendent will take over her duties.