So long, Mr. Sonner
Teacher, principal ends 41-year career
Saturday, May 24, 2014 5:00 AM
When Principal Alvin Sonner walks through the front doors of E.O. Muncie Elementary School on Monday morning, it will be the start of his 2,132nd week working for the Madison Consolidated Schools.
Alvin Sonner talks about his four decades working for the Madison Consolidated Schools. Sonner has worked in every elementary school in the district except Lydia Middleton and currently fills the role of principal of Deputy Elementary and assistant principal of E. O. Muncie Elementary. Sonner will retire at the end of this school year. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
It will also be his final week working for the school district.
Sonner announced his retirement in March after a 41-year career.
During his four-decade run with MCS, Sonner has been a constant in the school district's elementary education department. He has worked at every elementary school in the corporation - except Lydia Middleton.
"Back when I first started, we didn't have but half-day kindergarten," Sonner said.
"I think the teaching salary was around $7,000 when I started."
His extensive resume includes a 13-year run as a teacher at Eggleston Elementary School. He started in 1973 and taught fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.
From there he spent one year as an assistant principal at E.O. Muncie. He followed that with 23 years as the principal at Canaan Elementary School and two years as the principal at Dupont Elementary School.
For the past four years, he's been the principal at Deputy Elementary School, and when Dupont closed two years ago, he became the co-principal E.O. Muncie.
Being an educator is the family business if you're a Sonner. His twin brother also is in education, and his grandfather was a teacher for 46 years.
"I think that's kind of how my brother and I got into it," Sonner said.
His grandfather loved working with children, which is something Sonner has inherited.
"I love kids. That's why I've stuck it out," he said.
"Sometimes you hear people say, 'Oh, so and so is coming to our school.' Well, every time you change a school or a grade, that's a chance to turn over a new leaf. That's the way I look at it. If you don't, it's not a pleasant job, if you can't keep very positive about it."
Along with his positive outlook, Sonner's work ethic has been another of his defining characteristics throughout his career with MCS.
Sonner has always set lofty goals for himself, he said.
"Through college I worked 48 hours a week down at the Census Bureau, and went to school full time at Indiana University Southeast. I gave myself 45 minutes between the time I got off work and my first class," he said.
During the winter of the 1977-78 school year - when Madison area schools were shut down for the entire month of January due to snow - Sonner got permission to open Eggleston so he could give review sessions for some of his students.
He also started boys and girls after-school clubs while he was still teaching at Eggleston.
"I saw the need downtown that a lot of the kids didn't have things to do after school. So, I started an after-school club for boys and girls. We had boys on Friday and I played kickball and wiffleball and things like that, and they loved it. And then the girls said, 'We want to do it too,' so we gave them Mondays," he said.
While he's always strived to set goals and stay positive, things haven't always been easy. Sonner was the principal of both Canaan and Dupont when they were closed by the school board.
"That's probably the hardest thing I've ever done," Sonner said, "because you know that's the heart of the communities, and it was very emotional for everybody involved. Me included. But, you have to be a team player."
It's a stress that comes with being an administrator, and working in education, Sonner said. And he's still thankful for the time he was able to spend in those communities.
"Each school I've been at, the families have been just great. There's a lot of differences in each little community, but they love their kids and they'll do anything for them," Sonner said.
Sonner has plans for what comes next. And don't expect him to slow down too much.
He owns farmland north of Canaan that he plans to work once he's retired.
"I told my wife it'll take about eight months or a year to get the farm the way I want it," Sonner said. "I love to garden and just love the outdoors."
Sonner has several fruit trees on his land and also raises blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. Raising and selling fruit, he said, is something he might like to turn into a job.
While he's looking forward to the switch, Sonner knows that when the time comes to make it, it will be difficult for him.
"It's going to be bittersweet, because I know I'm going to miss it," he said. "But, I tell people I probably won't be too far away from the schools."