The decision to disconnect from the phone, plug in her walkie talkie, and sail off into retirement from Hamilton Community Schools is an emotional one for Hamilton Middle School icon and secretary Ms. Kelli Klingenberg. After all, Hamilton Community Schools are in her blood.

After graduating from Hamilton High School, Klingenberg quickly returned to the district as a secretary at Blue Star Elementary in 1999. On top of working in the district, ‘Ms. Kelli’ also married her high school sweetheart and also began raising their family in Hamilton.

After 17 years at Blue Star, Klingenberg transferred to Hamilton Middle School, the building she had attended from seventh to twelfth grade.

“It was like coming home,” Klingenberg recalled. “The culture here hasn’t changed and the staff here is amazing, we’re like a family. Everyone here cares about one another. As a community, we are truly blessed to have the best teachers right here in Hamilton.”

That family feeling paired with the feeling of assisting students every day is what makes the decision to retire so difficult for Klingenberg. Every day is something new – from medical emergencies, assigning substitute teachers, navigating pickups and bus transportation, and everything in between, there’s no such thing as a slow day for Kelli and her partner in crime, Kris Henrickson.

“If you’ve ever ventured into the middle school, you know it’s a popping place. Kris and I are always laughing and having fun while working," Klingenberg added. "I will miss laughing with Kris. I will miss doing the daily announcements with Kris too. We are so close that we often finish each other's sentences during announcements - we make a great team! I will miss her so much!"

The usual upbeat and smiling Klingenberg couldn’t help but tear up while talking about retirement after her 25 years in the district.

“I’m getting emotional,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I love giving students high fives, I’m going to miss that. We have high school students that come back to see us too.”

Hamilton Middle School 8th grade student Silas VanderZwaag was one of the several students who were caught off guard and saddened by the news of the retirement.

“Ms. Kelli always has a smile on her face and helps keep the school organized, she always makes my day and several students' days better. We will miss her but I hope she has a great retirement,” Silas added.

As for what’s next, she isn’t sure but she’s looking forward to family time and not being on a specific schedule every day during the school year.

“I’m going to take a leap of faith and I’m going to go out there and start something new. Whatever my next chapter is, I know it’s going to be great.”