Downs has enjoyed working with Nevada’s special needs students

Marlys BarkerNevada
Journal Editor
Downs has enjoyed working with Nevada’s special needs students

For 14 years, Mary Ann Downs has been an associate teacher in the Nevada School District. For even longer, she has been a coach with cheerleaders, either taking charge or assisting. She also, along with her husband Ken, was a strong supporter of wrestling in Nevada, starting the Wrestling Club, working tournaments, making team breakfasts … for 25 years.

As she looks forward to retirement at the end of this school year, Downs said it is unlikely she’ll sit at home. “I will keep volunteering in my community, church and school. There is a lot of need out there. God has kept me around to help meet those needs,” she said.

Downs was raised in Wabash, Ind., to the age of 14, and then moved to Bradshaw, Neb., where she graduated high school. Her husband Ken’s job at Nevada as a journeyman/lineman brought the couple here. She worked as a CNA/CMA for five years and thought about a career in nursing, but after working with mentally challenged adults for five years, her fate was sealed.

“Ray Murray encouraged me to apply for associate teaching,” she said. “I thought this would be a good fit, because of my love of working with kids and special needs individuals.” At the Nevada schools, she said, Mary Uhlenhop and Judy Oltman became her role models.

“As an associate, you have to be flexible and follow students into all the areas of teaching. You learn to be a ‘jack of all trades,’” Downs said. Even though she never earned a college degree, Downs took online classes to stay up to date with her associate duties, and she attended seminars through AEA during the summers.

She has loved her time in the Nevada schools. “The feeling of family and the support from all our staff” has been wonderful, she said.

The biggest challenge of her job, she said, was learning the aspects of all their studies, so she could be a better helper to her students. “I learned right along with the kids, although I could not handle shop classes. The power tools made me nervous.”

A big moment in working with special needs students was when they all helped get the Harmony Clothing Closet project started. That work, she said, “was very fulfilling … and will always be one of my favorite memories.”

Downs has a natural sense of humor and fun, and said she has enjoyed the years of teasing all the kids as she walks through the hallways at Nevada. It’s been fun, she said, to see all her friends every day, to watch the kids mature and to grow in terms of love and patience, which her students have helped her achieve.

She won’t miss getting up and out on those days when the temperature dips below 0, and she will now enjoy having more time to spend with family, which includes her sons and their families, Joe and Amy Bottorf, with Brittany, Brayden and Blake; Jeremy and Amanda Bottorf, with Aiden and Mila; Joe and Nicole Downs, with Elizabeth; and her daughters and their families, Misty and Paul Hermanson, with Kaleigh, Madisyn, Erica and Erin Guge, Michael and Paul; and Jamie and Dan Deveno, with Lydia, Megan and Zachary.

Looking back on it all, Downs will remember good times in school and in coaching cheerleading. “It was challenging, yet fulfilling. I always said, you can help turn any girl into a cheerleader, but the reward was helping them become beautiful human beings.”

Ken Downs may get the greatest advantage of all with Downs retirement, because here’s what she plans to do as the start of most days. “I plan to make my husband breakfast every morning, send him off to work, drink a cup of coffee and watch ‘The Today Show!”’