Rita Markgraf knows the end of this month will be bittersweet.
After 26 years with Medinah Elementary District 11, Markgraf will retire as principal of Medinah Primary School on May 30.
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"It's going to be very hard for me when I leave," Markgraf said. "When you're in one district for this length of time, the beauty of my work is getting to know families. There was trust built with a familiar face and someone they know. I felt committed to make a difference."
After moving from Texas to Illinois with her husband and 3-year-old son in 1986, Markgraf worked at a fifth-grade teacher in District 11. From 1997-99, she trained for the principalship and took over as principal of Medinah Intermediate School in 1999. Before becoming principal at Medinah Primary, she served as executive principal of both Medinah Intermediate and Medinah Primary for three years.
"I've worn a lot of hats, but it's been good," Markgraf said.
Markgraf has seen many changes during her tenure that reflect both changes in education and the country. The district ultimately switched from a K-8 schools to its current grade-level centers. The student body has become more ethnically diverse, and there has been an increase in the number of students requiring reduced or free lunches.
The staff met these challenges, Markgraf said, and have created academic success with their students. According to Medinah Primary's 2010 state report card, nearly 90 percent of students meet or exceed state standards in reading, while almost 97 percent meet or exceed state math standards.
Markgraf said she never strayed from her 40 years in education and 26 years at District 11 thanks to the families in the district, her supervisors, and her husband, who is an education administrator in Bloomingdale.
"It bonded us as a couple, because we are devoted to our careers," she said. "Plus, I love the people business. I love helping people and I never had a desire to do anything but stay where I was. I was fortunate to have had great experiences and great supervisors who have had a lot of confidence in me, so I was able to grow and be challenged."
District 11 Superintendent Joe Bailey said Markgraf's affect on her students was evident at a retirement reception held for her late last month. The event attracted not only her current students and their parents, but former pupils who are now in their 40s.
"It's amazing to see the impact of someone's career on so many people," Bailey said. "She's done a tremendous job and we're all very appreciative of the work she's done."
In July, George Gouriotis will replace Markgraf. He is currently an assistant principal at Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove, part of Kaneland Unit District 302. He was chosen by a committee of administrators, staff and parents from more than 50 applicants and 15 educators who were interviewed for the position.