Longtime Dutch Creek paraprofessional retires

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Benninghoff will always keep elementary school in her heart

By Deborah Swearingen

Ann Benninghoff has been in the education game for quite some time.

But she is now bidding farewell to Dutch Creek Elementary School, the place she’s called home for nearly 40 years.

She began volunteering at the South Jeffco elementary school, then became a teacher’s aide until landing in her eventual role of paraprofessional.

As a paraprofessional, Benninghoff wears many hats. She leads reading groups for kindergarten and first-grade students, helps fourth- and sixth-grade students with math and writing, keeps lunch running smoothly and much, much more.

Just “jack of all trade type things,” she said with a smile.

Six years ago, she started a before-school Dahn Mu Do program for students. Dahn Mu Do is an energy-based, non-combative, healing martial art. Staffs and swords are now housed in principal Jennifer Pennell’s office awaiting students’ use.

“With the staffs and the swords, they learn routines,” Benninghoff said. “And it’s balancing mind, body and soul.”

The Dahn Mu Do program, which has grown from seven students in its first year to more than 40, helps students calm down and can even affect their behavior in class.

“For 45 minutes,” Benninghoff joked.

In addition to her work at Dutch Creek as a paraprofessional, Benninghoff runs a tutoring business and works with Jefferson County Education Support Professionals Association, where she advocates for paraprofessionals, office workers, custodial and cafeteria staff, and more. She was once president and vice president of the association, and she received the CEA Educational Support Professional Award in 2014.

It’s been nearly four decades of nonstop work for Benninghoff, but above all, she loves Dutch Creek.

“It’s very community based,” she said. “You couldn’t ask for a better principal in Jennifer. She’s the one, like I say, that gave me a chance.

“I’ll miss the Dutch Creek family,” she added.

In her retirement, 69-year-old Benninghoff is looking forward to spending time with her husband and traveling. The couple hope to revisit Canada soon, and they want to take camping trips galore.

“We want to travel. We want to camp,” she said. “We like to ski. We like to hike.”

But in actuality, Benninghoff may never fully leave Dutch Creek. Not only will the school continue to carry a piece of her heart, but she also has plans to return.

At the very least, since she lives just blocks away, Benninghoff will come once a week to lead a morning Dahn Mu Do class.

“I’m going to be a face up here,” she said.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.