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Gaining a fortune by saying goodbye

RICH MAYFIELDsaturday columnist
Rich Mayfield
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An intelligent, dedicated, compassionate, hard-working and soon to be sorely missed person is retiring this week.Her name is Sue and she has been a teacher for more than 30 years, the last 20 here in Summit County. Most of those years have been spent teaching first grade, that wonderful year when children often learn to read. Sue has had the great joy of turning eager young minds into avid young readers. Like most other teachers, she has spent an enormous amount of time and incredible energy serving her students, many of whom continue to express their appreciation well into high school and beyond.Countless nights she has spent grading papers and preparing for the next day’s lessons. Phone calls to parents and lengthy notes to herself fill most of her evenings as she lives out her continuing commitment to the welfare and education of children. She would tell you that she is no different than the scores of other teachers and administrators in our community. Nevertheless, I have always been more than a little awed by her dedication to her calling. Perhaps it is her Minnesota upbringing, or maybe her Norwegian blood, but for whatever reason, she has been a model to others of what it means to have a strong and vital work ethic.

Her long career began with an assignment in a poverty stricken neighborhood of a large Midwestern city. She cut her pedagogical teeth in an atmosphere where optimism and hope were often rare commodities. And yet despair was never a part of her teaching agenda. She was convinced that her presence could make a difference in her students’ lives. And, I am certain, it did. Innocence played a part in her early sanguinity. In those first few weeks at work in the ghetto, she casually mentioned that one of the students had called her a “White Monkey” after she corrected some aberrant behavior. It was suggested to her that she may have misunderstood and then the derivation of the term “Honky” was gently explained.With the years came a wisdom she was eager to share with young teachers beginning their own mentoring journeys. Always willing to stop and listen to a newcomer’s trials and tribulations, Sue was the person many turned to when the frustrations of an often poorly paid and almost always over worked profession threatened to end a neophyte’s career. Hours on the phone, late into the evening, calming a peer, reigniting the passion that had begun to flicker, this, too, she was absolutely convinced, was part of her job.

This week she is packing up boxes and boxes of books, artwork, charts and all the other paraphernalia that accumulates over a teaching career. Much of the contents were purchased from her own savings, which makes her no different than most of her colleagues. Categorizing the containers, she is not intending to take them home, but to leave them for the newly graduated teachers who will do well to emulate their retiring benefactor. A lifetime of teaching comes to an end … or, more likely, takes a significant turn. One cannot imagine this artist of the classroom putting aside her palette. No one should be surprised to find her discovering new opportunities to share her myriad talents with others.Sue has been a blessing to the hundreds of students who have passed through her classroom. Perhaps, more importantly, she has been a true gift to this community as she has helped prepare eager children to become responsible citizens. And she has done it all with boundless enthusiasm and contagious joy. She shall be missed by many … but not by me.

Now I get her all to myself.Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. Visit his website at http://www.christianagnostic.com.


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