A retirement 41 years in the making: Kathy Gleich retires from St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton school

By Bruce Karnick
Posted 6/13/24

If you ask anyone if they think they will stay in the same job for 41 years, most people will likely say no. If you ask those same people if their job as a teenager had a huge impact on their work …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

A retirement 41 years in the making: Kathy Gleich retires from St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton school

Posted

If you ask anyone if they think they will stay in the same job for 41 years, most people will likely say no. If you ask those same people if their job as a teenager had a huge impact on their work ethic as an adult, those answers may be a bit more thought inducing. For one Hastings teacher, her work as a teen at McDonalds helped her not only in her own career, but also in bonding with her students.
Kathy Gleich was a teacher at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (SEAS) school in Hastings for 41 years, before that she worked at a McDonald’s in Rochester, MN.
“I can't even put my thoughts together about how cool this was because this is my thing,” said a still in shock Gleich. “This goes way back to the beginning where we had notes written if they went to my McDonald's, and so these are just… all over the world these pictures are. I always said it was a testament of their love for me if they would get a picture taken. My kids go to Jerusalem or Ireland and get their picture taken at McDonald's.”
Gleich’s work ethic came from that time back at McDonald’s. Everyone is aware of the phrase ‘If you have time to lean, you have time to clean’ and Gleich carried that with her, always finding little things to keep herself busy and productive and passing that on to her students.
The surprise party started with an innocent request from Gleich’s sister Teresa McCabe.
“I randomly reached out to public relations, I just grabbed a name, and sent my email which involved the history of my sister and how she implemented her life at McDonald's into her classroom. She has always had a great, great love for McDonald's. So, I was kind of expecting, like, a sweatshirt or something fun. It seemed like it just got to the correct person, Jeff, and then it just snowballed from there,” said McCabe.
Mary Gleich-Matthews added to the history, “McDonald's has always just kind of been part of her shtick. Working there instilled a work ethic, and it was kind of a fun thing that was really relatable to all of her students because McDonalds are everywhere. So, it just kind of grew over the many, many years that whenever students would travel for sports or vacation or whatever, they would send her a picture or a note for extra credit.”
Those that went to her location in Rochester received a little more extra credit than other places, but it was still a fun challenge for her students. When mobile phones and the accompanying cameras became a thing, the whole thing really took off. There were poster boards around the surprise celebration with hundreds of pictures and notes from around the world of students enjoying McDonalds. Her favorite was one from in front of the Vatican although there are many, many more that she really enjoys.
The love of fast food did run in the family, but one sister decided to work at Burger King, so there was a bit of competition between the two. McCabe did follow her sister by working at McDonalds and the name recognition at the time helped her land the job.
The Hastings McDonalds is franchise owned by Courtney Henry, so when the information came into McDonalds corporate, they forwarded the information to Jeff Grayson who is with the public relations team that works on behalf of the local franchises.
“When the corporation reached out to us, we kind of took it from there. So, it worked out really well because then we could communicate directly with the family who's here,” said Grayson. “We are going to present what we call a one in eight jacket. It's a national initiative for McDonald's because one in eight Americans have worked at McDonald's. I did when I was growing up like Kathy, so we thought that she'd be perfect for a one in eight jacket. It's like a letterman style jacket. Then we're going to give her a pullover with the Minnesota Franchise Logo, and we're going to give her an arch card for $50 so she come back with her family and enjoy some meals. And then we have this cake. I'm really excited about the cake. I'm excited about the cake because is has a picture of her as a teenager working.”
“I love it. I mean, we heard the story, and obviously I love McDonald's. I started working in restaurants at an early age and we heard about the story about how she's, even though she's been teaching for 41 years, some of the core work ethics that she learned and brought to her students is what she learned from McDonald's. If you see the posters and how she has her students go all across the world taking photos of McDonald's, we heard the story, we just love it. We are just glad that we can help her celebrate retirement,” said Henry.
Henry even looked a little jealous of the one in eight jacket, stating he didn’t even have one.
After 41 years as a teacher, it is a testament to how important those first jobs are to kids. The life lessons learned working those entry level jobs build a lifetime of skills, it is more fun when they carry over to stories like this. Congratulations on retirement Ms. Gleich, and thank you for sharing your story.