BELOIT—Sixth-grade teacher Nancy Wenger says she lives by the motto: “Once a Lancer, always a Lancer.”

Wenger has been teaching at McNeel Intermediate School in Beloit for the last 26 years of her 28-year teaching career. The Beloit native started as a self-contained special education teacher for 12 years, and for the last 14 years has been in the regular classrooms, mostly as a sixth grade teacher.

Wenger received her degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater before starting her education career in Beloit. She said she was inspired to become a teacher by her fourth grade teacher. Her teacher taught at Wright School (which is now Beloit Learning Academy,) and Wenger and her family lived right across the street.

Wenger would patiently wait all summer long until she would see her teacher’s car show up in the school parking lot. She eagerly asked her mother if she could go help set up the classroom for the day.

“Of all the places and all the things kids wanted to do…” Wenger said with a laugh. “ I wanted to go to school and help her. I think I just knew that was what I wanted to do. It’s worked out.”

When Wenger began her career as a self-contained special education teacher she quickly realized the experience was different than the average classroom. In the self-contained room, she began to know the students more intimately since they were in the classroom all day.

“The biggest thing was we became a family in that room since we spent so much time together,” she said. “In the old days, when we would have a toaster in my room, we would start the day with peanut butter toast, just to get the day started in a positive way and make sure they were fed and happy and could make progress.”

Wenger adds that in the “regular” classrooms, like her sixth-grade classrooms, she’s enjoyed getting to know many different families at McNeel. She’s had all the siblings in one family before, so she’s gotten to know the families well.

“The kids will come in and say, ‘You had my brother,’” she said. “And I’m like, ‘What did your brother say about me?’ ‘Well, he liked you.’ That’s good, we’re going to be OK.”

She adds she’s even taught children of a former student in her classroom now, so she feels like she’s been able to see things come full circle.

Wenger has recently become grandmother to her second grandchild, who lives in central Illinois. She decided she wanted freedom to see her oldest grandchild start school this fall which led to her decision to retire at the end of the school year. She adds that when her grandkids have “Grandparents Day” she wants to be able to say she will for sure be there for them.

“I’m going to give retirement a try,” she said. “I’m a little nervous that I’ll be bored. I’ll figure out something and I guess I can put my teaching hat back to work at some point.”

For Wenger, what she is most proud of is the McNeel saying/hashtag that she has always taken to heart: “Once a Lancer, always a Lancer.”

“I’ve been here long enough that so many people have come and gone, or they come for a while and then go,” she said. “They know they have a place here at McNeel. You are accepted here and it’s created a sense of family.”