Fitzgerald is saying ‘au revoir’ to teaching, ‘hola’ to retirement |

Fitzgerald is saying ‘au revoir’ to teaching, ‘hola’ to retirement

Post Independent/April E. Clark

After 40 years of teaching, Linda Fitzgerald still recalls students’ names from the first class she ever taught.

The retiring Glenwood Springs High School French and Spanish teacher will also never forget the class of 2006.

“My first job right out of college was at Wheaton North High School in Wheaton, Illinois,” said the 61-year-old Fitzgerald, who is retiring from the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 this month. “They were freshmen, and I was a freshman teacher. I remember them, and I remember their names. And I think I’ll feel the same about these graduating seniors.”

A trilingual mother of two and grandmother of five, Fitzgerald is marking her upcoming retirement with a class trip with nine of her students to France. The students had to raise money and make an A or B in French class to qualify for the trip.

“We will be going all over the country, and the students will do a home-stay with a family for one week,” she said. “I’ll explore the Riviera, which I’ve never done before, and swim in the Mediterranean.”

Fitzgerald, who was born and raised in Chicago, graduated from Illinois State University in 1966 and studied abroad for a year with Purdue University French students. She has traveled to France on at least five different occasions, but never to Spain.

“I did a year abroad as a college student (in France), and have been there on student trips and with my husband,” Fitzgerald said. “We didn’t have a study abroad program at Illinois, so I contacted a French professor from Purdue, and he said I should apply for the program.”

After graduating from ISU in three years, Fitzgerald married her college sweetheart, Pat, a week later. The couple, who celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in August, honeymooned in Glenwood Springs and made plans to return ” permanently.

“We had both been to Glenwood as kids. We came here on our honeymoon, loved it, and decided to come out when we could,” she said. “I remember we moved out here on June 15 and there was about a foot and a half of snow the day we arrived with our truck and all our worldly belongings. We moved into this decrepit old dude ranch above Ruedi. What an experience. We had about $2,000 to last six months.”

Fitzgerald was a stay-at-home mom for nearly 15 years, raising two daughters who now live in Fort Collins and Centennial.

“During those 14 years, I was afraid I would loose my French. So in ’70 or ’71, Anne Vogt and I started the French Club that is still going on today,” she said. “They meet during lunch, so I haven’t been able to go to a lot of meetings. But we still meet at concerts. As soon as I retire, I bet she’ll be on phone saying, ‘You can start coming to regular meetings now.'”

In the early ’80s Fitzgerald returned to teaching French ” and took on an additional language she never expected.

“I only intended to teach French, but the district only offered a French- and Spanish-teaching position. I told (former GSHS principal) Pat Henry, ‘I can do it, I can do it,'” she said. “I went to UNC (University of Northern Colorado) and took very intense, three-week-per-summer courses for five years to get my master’s in education with a French and Spanish emphasis.”

After several decades of teaching, Fitzgerald said she’s not sure how she feels about retiring. But she is looking forward to oil painting, gardening and traveling in her free time.

“They say that so often you are what your work is. I think I’ll miss the routine of knowing what I’m doing every day. But I won’t miss grading papers or hearing the bell ring. And I’ll miss the people,” she said. “I don’t really know how it’s all going to work out or what my life will be like. It’s certainly a new phase. … I don’t think it’ll hit me until I’ve been out for a while.”

Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518

– Name: Linda Fitzgerald

– Occupation: retiring high school French and Spanish teacher

– How long have you been teaching? Forty years. I started in 1966, although I did take almost 15 years off to raise my family. I’ve been in the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 for 22 years.

– Best piece of teaching advice you’ve ever received: “Teach the person, not the subject.”

– Advice you’d like to give graduating seniors: A big overall chunk of advice would be about the big decisions you make in life. You really have to think through how they will affect the rest of your life. Who you marry is critical . What you decide to do as a career should be something you love. And don’t be a parent unless you want to be a parent. That comes from a teacher who worked with a lot of kids whose parents just weren’t there for them. If you’re happy in those three things, you’ve got it made.

– Movie: “Jean de Florette” starring Gerard Depardieu

– Cereal: Cheerios

– SInger: I love anything The Nylons sing

– Food: roast pork and mashed potatoes

– Author: Martha Grimes

– Place in Garfield County: my house

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