FOREST CITY | Kim Mollenhauer knew early on she wanted to be a teacher.

When she was little girl, "I would make my sisters play school," said Mollenhauer, who is in her 35th year of teaching at Forest City Elementary. 

Both her sisters also became teachers. Their father and one of their aunts were teachers as well.

One of Mollenhauer's two daughters, who lives in West Des Moines, used to be a teacher and is now a school guidance counselor.

"It just runs in the family," Mollenhauer said.

She's been with the district long enough that she's had children in her class whose parents she taught.

"You get to know the families," she said.

This year Mollenhauer's granddaughter started preschool at Forest City. She said it was wonderful to see her walking down the hallway on the first day of school.

"She was so excited," she said. 

Mollenhauer, who grew up in Keystone in east-central Iowa and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa, taught second grade when she first came to Forest City.

She then taught first grade for 30 years and is now back teaching second grade.

Mollenhauer said she loved teaching students how to read in first grade.

In second grade "you see it all coming together" when students are both reading and writing, she said. 

When Mollenhauer's second-graders returned to class from recess on the first day of school this year, she asked them if they had a good time and had a chance to play with friends they hadn't seen all summer.

Then they got down to work on an engineering project.

"Wednesdays are really cool because we do STEM activities," Mollenhauer told the students. "We are going to stretch our brains."

The children were given toothpicks and jelly beans so they could build whatever they wanted, whether it was houses or letters of the alphabet. 

Mollenhauer has seen tremendous changes in education since she started her teaching career in the early 1980s.

In her first few years at Forest City Elementary, computers were brought into the classrooms for the first time.

She said the students didn't do much with them at first, but now all the children use them.

"Last year we had second-graders creating Google Docs," she said.

The children made slideshows they could e-mail to their parents.

"It's a huge, huge change," Mollenhauer said.

She said she had lots of excellent mentors and role models in the district when she was a young teacher.

She also said she feels fortunate that some of the same people who were there when she started are still working at the school.

They enjoy bouncing ideas off each other, according to Mollenhauer.

She also said the parents and the community are very supportive.

Mollenhauer, who just turned 57, isn't ready to retire yet.

"I'll know when I know," she she said. "I feel good about being here yet. I love what I do."

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