‘Never a dull moment’
By Suzie Romig
RFSD Public Information Officer
They will remember the student who put Ex-Lax in the teachers’ coffeepot. They will remember the one who pulled the pins out of the classroom door, then knocked and ran. They won’t forget the cow pie presented in a pizza box on senior skip day, the classroom flooding in the darkness during a film or the pencil-top eraser stuck up a young boy’s nose.
Mostly, however, the educators retiring this year from from the Roaring Fork School District will remember – and miss – the “ah-ha!” moments, the learning moments from thousands of students they taught through the years. They will miss the camaraderie of their colleagues, and they will relish the memories of former students, all grown up, who came back to say thanks.
This week, 15 teachers, administrators or employees from the RFSD will be recognized for their combined 319 years of service to the district. The public is invited to the retirement reception from 4-6 p.m. Friday, May 14, at the Hotel Colorado to share stories and wish the educators well as they head off for vacations, more time with grandchildren or new adventures.
This year’s retirees range from three principals, to two teachers who helped open Basalt Middle School in 1976, to a Basalt High teacher who tops the list in longevity with 35 years in the district.
The retirees were asked to share some parting thoughts on their most rewarding, memorable or comical teaching moments. They were quizzed about what they will miss most about teaching and what they look forward to during retirement.
“I have watched each and every student’s eyes light up when they have finally understood a difficult academic concept,” said Luanne Costanzo, a first grade teacher who has spent 17 years at Basalt Elementary and 27 years in education.
Among the teaching rewards there also came laughter.
“Children are very tactile little creatures,” Costanzo said. “They love to feel different things. They love to run their hands up and down your shin when you are wearing nylons. One day, however, I was reading a story to my class and all of a sudden, I felt something very strange on my leg. I looked down, and a child was actually licking my nylons.”
Costanzo said she will miss the children most since “their joy and innocence in life is contagious.”
Basalt Elementary colleague Barb Livingston displayed the gift for teaching special education students through 36 years in education.
“I will miss experiencing that ‘ah-ha’ sparkle that shines in the student’s face when they finally understand a concept,” Livingston said.
During 27 years at Basalt Elementary, Livingston has seen much growth and many changes from a school with only two sections at each grade level to seven sections.
“When we moved to Basalt, some of the streets had boardwalks, and the library was a one-room log cabin,” Livingston said.
“I am looking forward to being able to read, travel in the fall and winter time, and learn more about perfecting my digital photography,” she said.
Student counselor Susan Faulkner is headed to retirement after five years at Basalt Elementary, but she spent 25 years in education in Ohio. Faulkner said she will remember “all the hugs, especially the ones in the cafeteria on the days they serve spaghetti or something sticky” and “being whispered about and pointed to in City Market.”
Like other retirees, she will miss “all of the truly dedicated, hard-working, child-centered colleagues.”
At Basalt Middle School, nine-year principal, 21-year district employee and 32-year educator Pat Henry is leaving to have “more time with my wife to ski, hike, play, see our kids more and work less.” Henry said he will miss “the kids and the fact that they keep you young and in touch with the real world.”
Two founding teachers from Basalt Middle School remember the days when the school included only about a dozen teachers and 200 students. Retiring seventh grade instructor Mary Leslie said teachers used to encourage the students to play pranks on their colleagues such as all dropping their books on the floor at once.
The Ex-Lax in the coffee prank luckily “didn’t get teachers sick because he wasn’t smart enough to put it in before it perked,” Leslie said with a laugh.
Even after 32 years at BMS, the math and social studies teacher said, “It’s never a dull a moment.”
Basalt Middle teacher Judy Palmer recently was honored with a $10,000 prize as Basalt’s most inspirational teacher of the year. She said the award, donated by an area businessman, was a validation of her 29 years at the school.
Basalt High English teacher Werner Anderson has worked in the district the longest at 35 years. When he started, Basalt had about 100 high school students and one principal for the elementary, middle and high schools.
“Being in one place long enough to teach two generations of families has been the most interesting and rewarding to me,” Anderson said. “My first class of students is over 50 years old now.”
Anderson doesn’t plan to give up teaching yet, but he and his wife are moving closer to grandchildren and property in Kansas.
As for the years, he said, “Honestly sometimes it really feels like a couple days before yesterday, but on Mondays it seems like it’s been the full 35 years.”
Another retiree who can’t believe the years have passed so quickly is Crystal River Elementary kindergarten teacher Susan Tindall, who has been teaching for 33 years including 24 years in the district, and has enjoyed seeing “former students all grown up.”
“I am looking forward to not having to get up at 6 a.m. every weekday, being able to clean my house, and most of all being able to travel with my husband in the fall, winter and spring,” Tindall said.
Another longtime Carbondale teacher, Bonnie Cretti has taught social studies at Roaring Fork High for 27 years to an estimated 2,100 students.
“I will miss most my daily constant interaction with students because in a small school and small town, I get to know them not only academically but also personally. I will miss relationships as well, watching them learn to love to learn,” Cretti said.
As for retirement plans, Cretti said, “I’ll wait for the door to close, and then I’ll wait for the new one to open.”
Glenwood Springs Elementary will retire two long-term educators, 30-year teacher Carmen Roy and literacy teacher Julie Beck Pope, who has served 32 years.
Pope remembers “a tear and a chuckle wrapped up in one” when a young man stopped by her classroom to reintroduce himself as a former second-grade student. He wanted to thank Pope for inspiring him to enter teaching.
“I asked him if he remembered a comical and yet scary incident that happened to him in our classroom,” Pope said. “He had come up to my desk with eyes full of fear, and all he could do was point at his rather enlarged nose and make very loud nasal sounds, as if in severe pain. … With worried classmates gathered around, I thrust a tissue at him and instructed him to blow as hard as he could. He blew and blew and out came a large pencil-top eraser.”
Like her colleague, GSES second-grade teacher Roy said the best part of teaching has been “having former students come to see me or write to say that I’d inspired them in their life and they remember second grade fondly.”
Two principals from schools in Glenwood Springs will be retiring to have more time with family or to travel. At the middle school, Ginny Schroeder spent two years as principal after 30 years as a teacher and administrator in other parts of Colorado.
“It has been most rewarding for me to watch middle school youngsters as they grow and change,” Schroeder said.
Mike Blair, principal of Bridges High for the past seven years, also spent two years at Basalt Middle after a career in Alaska. He plans to spend more time at his cabin in Alaska and to help other school districts start non-traditional high schools.
Medical preparation teacher Judy Burke is leaving after 16 years to have more time for family and recreation. She will continue to work as an on-call nurse at Valley View Hospital, which she said has been very supportive of the district’s med-prep program.
Sweeping up the retirees list is former custodian Leon Garot, who worked in the district 13 years.
Retiring elementary educator Pope sums up many of the teachers’ thoughts.
“I will miss most the interaction with students and being greeted with a smile or a hug,” Pope said. “Observing a sparkle in a student’s eye or a smile spread across a student’s face when a skill or concept is finally understood is priceless.””I will miss most the interaction with students and being greeted with a smile or a hug,” Pope said. “Observing a sparkle in a student’s eye or a smile spread across a student’s face when a skill or concept is finally understood is priceless.”
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