They’re best friends and sisters-in-law who have been teaching Port area children together for more than 35 years and are now retiring together
Lincoln Elementary School fourth-grade teachers Chris Lanser Rismeyer and Cheryl Lanser have been a team since their first teaching jobs at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Lake Church.
Now, the teachers — who are also sisters-in-law and best friends — will end their careers together, exchanging their Smart Boards for more time with their families, especially grandchildren, and hobbies.
“It’s bittersweet,” Rismeyer said.
“Because it’s a job we love going to,” Lanser added.
The two women often finish each other sentences. Even though they see each other at school — or will until their last day on June 8 — they also call each other almost every day.
The women met when Lanser started dating her future husband, Rismeyer’s brother Dan. They were students at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where the women earned their teaching degrees in 1975
That was a festive year at the Lanser household in Port Washington
Lanser married Dan in June 1975 and was hired to teach at the Lake Church school that fall.
Rismeyer married her husband Keith in December and was hired the next year.
Dan and Chris are the oldest of eight Lanser siblings. Cheryl, who grew up in Edgerton, is the youngest of six siblings.
Family gatherings are huge events at which both women are usually present.
“We have to watch that we don’t bring school into our family gatherings,” Lanser said.
“We’re often told, ‘No talking school,’” Rismeyer said.
But it’s so tempting, they said, especially if a student is struggling or they’re planning a joint project.
Rismeyer has taught for 24 years at Lincoln School. After one year in Lake Church, she taught at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Port Washington for six years before going to Lincoln School.
Rismeyer, her children Michelle and Eric, siblings, mother and grandmother went to the Catholic school in Port.
Lanser taught at Lake Church for two years, then quit teaching when her first child was born. She worked part-time when her children, Darcy, Amanda and Jared, were young.
She was a substitute teacher at St. Mary’s School in Port Washington, then a paraprofessional for nine years in the Port Washington-Saukville School District, helping in kindergarten at Lincoln School and with computer classes at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
“At TJ, I was fixing the computers, and that’s not what I wanted to do,” Lanser said. “I wanted to work with children, not machines.”
She then taught fourth-grade at Lincoln School for one year, four years at Dunwiddie Elementary, then back to Lincoln, where she stayed.
Along the way, both teachers got their master’s degrees.
There are three fourth-grade classrooms at Lincoln School. The three teachers share students for math with flexible ability grouping.
In addition, Rismeyer and Lanser basically team teach, with Rismeyer teaching science for both classes and Lanser teaching social studies.
They tried collaborating on writing and reading, but decided they liked doing their own thing.
They rarely disagree, but when they do they do it respectfully.
“We never leave upset,” Rismeyer said. “We have respect for each other and agree to disagree. We realize being sisters-in-law we have to make sure it doesn’t ruin a family relationship. It never ever came close.”
Rismeyer and Lanser are the longest-serving teachers in the school, and they may also put in the most hours. They are among the first teachers to arrive in the morning and the last ones to leave.
Rismeyer can see the school parking lot from her bedroom window, so she walks to school. Lanser’s car is usually the only one left in the lot when she leaves about 5 p.m.
“We have to do all of our correcting (papers) and planning everything for the next day,” Rismeyer said. “I need to feel prepared to do a good job. That’s my personality.”
“The next day goes so much better if you’re prepared,” said Lanser, who had bypass heart surgery two years ago.
“Part of it is the job. I put too much stress on myself. I work most nights until 9 p.m.”
Technology has certainly changed education and taken much of the drudgery away, the teachers agreed, recalling days of purple hands from stubborn mimeograph machines to make enough copies for each student. The overhead projector seemed a godsend until they discovered Smart Boards.
The computer boards have helped students who struggle with other ways of learning. The teachers have seen students soar with the hands-on boards.
“It’s a wonderful tool, and we’re not using it to the fullest yet,” Lanser said.
They will miss sharing those moments when a student finally understands a concept, but they’re also eager to branch out, almost like sending their students off to fly.
Lanser loves to sew and wants to do sewing projects and relax on her own time. She may start an alterations and custom-sewing business.
Her only grandchild lives in California and she wants to spend more time with him and her daughter
Rismeyer’s three grandchildren live in Milwaukee and she wants to spend more time with them while she’s healthy and energetic.
“I feel now is my time to help them,” Rismeyer said. “I want to be able to go to their schools and be a volunteer there.”
Image Information: Chery Lanser (left) and Chris Rismeyer with their Lincoln Elementary School students.