Twenty years ago, Teri Deindoerfer helped her mother, Fran Sweet, clean out her office when she retired as principal of Manor Elementary School.


Last week, Sweet returned the favor and helped her daughter clear her desk as she retires this week after 30 years as a speech and language therapist for Monroe Public Schools, the last dozen years at Custer Elementary School.


“It was like a reverse role,” Deindoerfer recalled last week. “I remember my brother and I helping her when I was younger put up bulletin boards and other stuff. Now I’m needing help and she’s been helping me move in and out and with projects with my kids.”


Deindoerfer is capping her career in special education, a field her mother suggested to her before she graduated from Ida High School in 1983.


“I always wanted to be an elementary teacher,” she recalled. “Mom suggested I look into special ed and spend time with Tony Antkowiak, the only male speech therapist at the time whom she went to college with. I spent an hour and 15 minutes with him every day my senior year and learned a lot.”


She has spent the last 27 years at Monroe Public Schools after working two years at Summerfield Schools and one year at Bedford Public Schools. Her first 15 years at Monroe were at Riverside Elementary School prior to the building becoming a preschool.


Then she moved to Arborwood North for two years and the last 12 years at Custer. In between, she also spent time teaching at Monroe Middle School and Monroe High School.


As a speech therapist, Deindoerfer, 54, said she has seen “the best of both worlds” — working with younger and older students. Each year, she has a weekly caseload of 50 to 65 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Like a revolving door, they would enter in small groups of two to five every half hour.


“It’s a very challenging field when you have kids with impairments and disabilities,” she said. “They go up a ladder and get more challenging as you go on. What works for one student may not work for the next one. It’s all on an individual basis. I can make some assumptions, but every child is different.”


She said she’s always thinking, “What can I do next?”


“You work hard and the kids work hard and they start to improve,” she said. “The parents are amazed and I’m amazed when I look at a video from a year ago and realize how well they sound. Their motivation and success keeps them going.”


She said communication skills are the key to any job or career and has a huge impact on academics.


“They help students conquer and overcome their fears and build confidence in their communications with adults,” she said. “It also helps their reading and writing skills.”


She has taught more than 1,000 students in her career with language issues, voice issues and fluency (stuttering) with specific sounds.


“It’s refreshing to have a new group with different goals every half hour,” she said. “You have so many different kids at different levels and you get to know them and watch them grow. It’s very rewarding.”


The coronavirus pandemic put a damper on serving students, whom she could talk with, but not do “teletherapy” with.


“It really hampered services and affected everybody,” she said. “It was not the end I had in mind.”


At Monroe Schools, there were 10 speech therapists when she started there. Today, with her leaving, there are only five left.


“We had (other speech instructors) we called ’speech buddies.’ We relied on each other and got together and shared ideas” and methods.


Friday is her last official day. When she leaves, she said she would miss the students, but not the paperwork.


“I love working with the kids,” she said. “It’s been an awesome career thanks to mom.”


She plans to be a caregiver for her friend’s two adult children who have special needs. The daughter of Jim and Fran Sweet, she also plans to cook meals for her parents to repay her mother for cooking meals for her family.


Deindoerfer enjoys biking, hiking, snowmobiling and horseback riding. She is married to Todd Deindoerfer of Temperance, an accountant with a Toledo firm.


The couple have three children — Jared (Tiffany) of Grass Lake; Erica, who is engaged and planning to be married in September, and Justin, who is enrolled at the University of Toledo where he is studying chemical engineering.