The interests that bind colleagues
Just because individuals retire from a lifelong profession, that doesn’t mean they pack their boxes and memories and head out of the classroom.
For more than a decade, retired educators and support personnel from the Churchill County School District assemble for lunch once a month to catch up on the news of their families, vacations, friends and sometimes the current trends in the district.
Shoptalk, though, appeared to be limited when I attended the retired teachers’ last meeting earlier this month.
Eileen Montgomery, who taught third grade at West End Elementary school for years (and also taught my son Thomas in the early 1990s), has been a faithful participant when she is not out of town seeing her son or on a trip.
Eileen said early in the school year when the retirees meet, about 25 certified and classified employees will attend; as the year progresses, that number dwindles to about 10-12. During the summer, she and other retirees said they will see a few more “active” teachers” attending the meetings.
Sue Ansotegui, who taught for many years in the district, helps to publicize each monthly meeting and attends most meetings. On this day, though, Sue received the call to step into a classroom as a substitute teacher.
Eileen and Mary Hutchings believe the group started about a decade ago and first met at Apple Tree, and then the group moved to another restaurant. Now, the retirees meet every first Monday around the noon hour at La Casita on East Center Street.
“I started the first day of school in August, but it evolved to the other months for anyone employed by the Churchill County School District,” Eileen explained.
Mary Grumstrup, who now attends her share of meetings, said it was difficult to attend the lunches when she taught full time. Now, the former first-grade teacher at West End looks forward to visiting with their former colleagues.
For the most part, most of the attendees are women, but Eileen is quick to point out that quite a few male educators show up at the August and September luncheons.
For Mary, though, her husband Paul, also a retired teacher, is on the road driving trucks.
Both Morena Heser and Sue Williams have been retired for only a short time, but they both said seeing friends is a highlight of the month.
“I spent my whole career at Lahontan (Elementary School), but many of my friends were at other schools,” Sue said.
At the monthly luncheons, no barriers among the different staffs or schools exist.
“We talk about everything … family, trips,” Sue said.
Other topics also emerged as explained by Pam Wickwizer.
“We’ll talk about Shark Tank (a TV reality show). I can’t believe people want more money,” she exclaimed.
Pam also said a big topic of conversation at the weekly luncheons is for others to catch up on personal news.
Retired first-grade teacher Connie Heath told me about meeting a college roommate in Apache Junction, Ariz., not too long ago. That perked up my interest since my late mother was a snowbird to Apache Junction.
In asking questions and working the room as a talk-show host, I found it fascinating to speak with those former educators and find out what they have been doing for the past few months or years. Although I have been retired from the school district for a decade, I also found it interesting to see what has been going on in their lives and what changes have occurred with their extended families such as the addition of new grandkids or a change in health for elderly parents.
Such is the case for Connie who is traveling and visiting her grandchildren and also seeing her elderly father.
For one hour, it was nice to be whisked back in time to when all of us taught. It reminded me of my Army buddies when we would meet for a beer and then reminisce about certain events that crossed our lives.
I had one such meeting earlier this month where a group of us met at Reno’s 1864 Saloon and hoisted a few, while telling war stories.
I strongly believe anytime former colleagues can connect, they will definitely be richer for the information they share and the renewal of old ties.
After all, we’re not getting any younger.
Steve Ranson is editor of the LVN.