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  • Kent Casson

Groce announces retirement

PC Primary West Principal Dan Groce poses in the school office.

Dan Groce was lucky enough to get a teaching job in his hometown of Chenoa after college and the rest is history.

Groce has announced his retirement as principal of Prairie Central Primary West elementary school at the end of the current school year. When his career began, the Chenoa grade school was by the city park while Gene Jontry was superintendent and Tom Krones was principal – long before Chenoa was annexed into the Prairie Central school district.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen at that time,” Groce recalled. “I didn’t know how long the job would be open in Chenoa. I always knew that there was a chance, with the way the finances were, that the job would be eliminated but I fortunately made it through.”

Groce started off teaching physical education in the junior high and has coached high school football, girls basketball, junior high track and junior high basketball. He taught social studies at the junior high level and did physical education instruction in every grade level at the elementary school.

Once a head teacher position was created at Chenoa, Groce started dabbling into administration.

“When the principal was out of the building, it was kind of a problem-solving position,” Groce said.

This position led to Groce entering an administrative role at the former Chenoa High School. Groce was in the high school role for a year or two before talks really began of merging with Prairie Central under the leadership of former Prairie Central Superintendent and Chenoa native, Dr. John Capasso.

Groce admits there were many unknowns but felt everything worked out great for the community.

“For me, it has been about the relationships, really the relationships with everyone – the parents, teachers and kids.”

With Chenoa being such a small community, Groce often sees former students, some of whom are his friends and neighbors now. He feels fortunate to carry on those relationships.

“It’s a neat thing,” Groce observed.

While he has no definite plans for retirement just yet, he won’t rule out some possibilities. Groce feels confident in the current staff at his building to keep teaching and caring for the kids. He salutes everyone involved in education during these interesting times.

“If you had to write down on a piece of paper all of the changes and new things people had to go through, I think people would have said you’re crazy.”

Groce and his wife, Ellen, have three grown children. Their youngest daughter, Sammi, lives in San Diego, middle daughter Molly is in Las Vegas and Groce’s son, Louie, is in Tacoma, Washington. Granddaughters Zoe and Willa (daughters of Molly) are ages three and two respectively.

“I just really want to thank everyone for a fantastic career,” Groce concluded. “I couldn’t have imagined a more enjoyable experience.”

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