Western Wayne Schools is saying goodbye to three retirees, one of whom has worked 50 years for the district. 

Colleagues, friends, family and students stopped by an after-school open house May 21 to wish them well.  

Beth Bowman

After 22 years and many concerts at WWS, choral director Beth Bowman is stepping down. Before joining Cambridge City’s schools, she taught private voice and piano lessons for 15 years and spent three years at Hagerstown Jr.-Sr. High School. 

Shortly after graduating from Georgetown College in Kentucky, she taught elementary music for a year in Frankfort and decided she liked working with older students.

Bowman said she’ll miss watching students improve as they learn a song, recalling the great kids and great families she’s known over the years.

She remembers being asked why she didn’t retire when the pandemic first affected schools. Bowman said she was grateful that WWS reopened as soon as possible, and she couldn’t leave her students. She wanted to help them get through challenges such as wearing masks while singing, and then stay to provide fun, typical choral experiences for her students before retiring. 

Some of Bowman’s favorite memories involve leading choir trips to New York, Nashville, Memphis, Branson, Canada and Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.

Bowman also will miss her classroom. 

“It has been like my home away from home,” she said. 

In retirement, Bowman wants to compose music and return to playing classical music.  

After 22 years and many concerts at WWS, choral director Beth Bowman is stepping down. Photo by Millicent Martin Emery

Peggy Rihm

Peggy Rihm has worked as a library aide in a few different libraries throughout the district, mostly at the middle and high school levels.  

She graduated from Lincoln High School in 1972. After about a year away, Wayne West approached her and asked if she’d want to work in the library, and she agreed.

Her first location was at the high school, in the end of the building where the keyboarding room is now. She later moved to the middle school library and then returned to high school when the middle school library was discontinued. 

In retirement, Rihm plans to spend more time with her 97-year-old dad, Bill Rihm.

She said she didn’t expect to work for WWS for 50 years, and sometimes decided on the last day that she’d return. 

“I’ll miss everybody I’ve worked with,” she said.

Yvonne Swafford

Although Yvonne Swafford has worked for WWS for four years, she has taught for more than 20 years in Union County schools, and remains a Liberty resident.

She said she saw an opportunity to impact WWS’ special education program and decided to make a change. She taught applied skills before becoming special education coordinator.   

“I wanted to come and make things better,” Swafford said.

Joining a new district during the first year of the pandemic made it more difficult to meet colleagues as classrooms were isolated, but WWS eventually began feeling like home. 

She said she has loved collaborating with Elizabeth Miller, Western Wayne Elementary’s principal, and said Andy Stover is one of the best superintendents she’s worked with.

Swafford feels that WWS is building something great, and it’s hard leaving in the middle, but she said it’s time to focus on her family, which includes parents in Terre Haute. 

She’s confident that the right people are in place to continue the momentum. Kailey Winchester is taking Swafford’s place.  

During the open house, seventh grader Noah Rinehart presented a gift painted by his mom, Ida Rinehart, to Swafford.

“He fell in love with Mrs. Swafford on the first day,” Ida said. 

Before serving as WWS’ special education coordinator for the last four years, Yvonne Swafford taught for more than 20 years in Union County schools. Photo by Millicent Martin Emery
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A version of this article appeared in the May 29 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.