By Michelle Leidy-Franklin
CONWAY SPRINGS – Kyle True Blood Elementary School principal Ronald Ronnau will be retiring this month after 24 years working for USD 356.
His education career began in 1992, working for the Rock Creek school district as a para educator. Later, he served two years each at St. John Lutheran School in Alma, Kan., and at Alta Vista Elementary School. Though Ronnau has been in education for the last 29 years, it was not his first career choice.
“When I was in high school, I had no desire to go to college, which wasn’t too out of line for the 1970s. None of my family had gone to college. I was an average student and my main goal during high school was to play football and basketball,” said Ronnau.
Ronnau said he went to work right after high school at a grain elevator. Deciding he wanted a cleaner job, he then went to work for a meat plant driving a truck. When offered the opportunity to try cutting meat for a higher wage and better schedule, Ronnau jumped on the opportunity.
After 15 years cutting meat, Ronnau developed tendonitis and was told by his doctor that he would either have to learn to live with the pain or get a different job. He decided it was time to find another line of work.
“I was probably in my mid to late 30s when I decided I didn’t want to be standing at a table cutting meat until my retirement age,” said Ronnau.
At that time in his life, Ronnau was married with three children. His wife, Louise, was already working in education. He could see similarities between coaching and teaching and decided that was the direction he would go. With the support of his family, Ronnau enrolled in college and pursued a bachelor’s degree in education, which he obtained in the spring of 1992.
“At that time, we didn’t want to move for a job because of the grades our kids were in at school. So, I began my master’s degree that fall,” said Ronnau.
He also started working as a para the fall of 1992 while attending school for his master’s degree. After finishing his master’s degree in school administration, Ronnau took a position in Conway Springs as principal of Kyle True Blood Elementary School. By this time, his two oldest children were off to college and his youngest was a freshman in high school. Ronnau said his goal was to stay at least four years so that his son could graduate high school without having to move around. Four years turned into 24.
“We remained in Conway Springs because of the quality school system, relationships we have formed with colleagues and the tremendous support of the school board over the years. Everywhere I have been, there have always been good people in education. We feel fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work in the school and community of Conway Springs for so many years,” said Ronnau.
Eventually, after moving to Conway Springs, Ronnau’s wife, Louise, eventually joined him at USD 356. Louise, who is the counselor at Conway Springs High School, also is retiring after this school year. The couple initially had planned to retire together in 2020, but when the pandemic hit, they decided to work one more year to see the children through a difficult time.
“I think one of the neatest things is to see kids come to school as first-time students. They are so excited to be going to school. As they go through the grades some of that excitement may wear off, but this past year has shown us that kids really do want to be in school. They may not always like the assignments but they want and need the socialization. Missing out on the spring last year took that away from students,” said Ronnau.
Ronnau plans to spend his retirement doing some traveling and visiting family and children who have settled outside the state and overseas. They plan to stay in their home in Conway Springs, though. He looks forward to the freedom to travel without having to juggle a work schedule, but is happy with the time he has spent at Kyle True Blood Elementary.
“My wife and I have been fortunate to be part of the Conway Springs school district for so many years. We have worked with some amazing people who only have the best interest of our students in mind,” said Ronnau.