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Retired teachers have odd good-bye but cherish careers

Photo submitted Pam Stephanik recently retired from Putnam Elementary School after 43 years of service.

Most retiring teachers get a chance to say goodbye to their students in person, but some local teachers didn’t get that chance because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marietta resident Pam Stephanik spent most of her 43 years teaching at Putnam Elementary School. When she retired June 1, she was teaching first grade.

She said the thing she’ll miss most is working with the students each year, as there was always a new group coming in.

“I taught one year of second grade and one year of third grade,” she explained. “First graders love to learn. The growth that they made from the first of the year until the end of the year was amazing.”

She said when she started teaching first grade, it was very similar to what children learn in kindergarten today.

“Now they come into first grade, knowing their letters, names and sounds,” she said. “Kindergarten is what first grade was years ago.”

Retiring was difficult after not seeing the kids since March, she said.

“It was very hard. Some very special people in my life had a parade for me at the school to let me say goodbye to past students, colleagues and current students,” she said. “These last couple of months have been very hard to not be with my students, which is where I love to be.”

She said maybe not saying goodbye in person was easier.

“Teaching wasn’t a job to me,” Stephanik said. “It was a way of life that will be cherished.”

Libby Arnold

Libby Arnold of Little Hocking taught all subjects in fifth and sixth grade at Warren Middle School. She retired May 29 after 40 year of teaching.

“The last five years I taught just social studies,” she said.

She previously taught at Little Hocking and when they made the middle school, the fifth grade was moved over.

“I started at sixth grade and taught that for two or three years,” she sad. “It’s a great age. They are starting to think a little more. They’re still a lot of fun and funny.”

She said it was rare when she was driving home from work and didn’t laugh at something one of the students said or did.

“They are super enthusiastic at that age,” she added.

She may be retired, but she said she hopes to substitute teach and she’s looking into options at local universities. She taught an adjunct class at Ohio University last year.

Working the last few months from home was challenging because of the lack of internet in some areas.

“My students that were able to do work online with internet access, it was easier to stay connected to them,” she explained. For those without internet access, packets were prepared with the same work. They would do the work, then return them.

“They would do the work, but they wouldn’t get the immediate feedback,” she said.

She said working online just wasn’t the same, as you couldn’t see the kids’ facial expressions. Google meetings left a lot to be desired, she added.

“It was interesting how the kids all commented on how they missed school,” Arnold said. “They called it ‘regular school.’ ‘We miss regular school.'”

She said the students change a lot from the beginning of the year until the end. They grow up a lot, she noted.

“The year before I got my job, I think I substituted every grade and fifth was my favorite,” she said.

Debbie Clark

After working for almost 20 years for Warren High School, Bartlett resident Debbie Clark retired June 1.

“I taught freshmen modern world history and economics, and have taught American history,” she said.

Working remotely was challenging and not expected at all, she said.

“It’s a lot more difficult to motivate students when you’re not there to get them to work. At one time I had 33 zeroes because they hadn’t turned in anything,” Clark said. “At last they turned it in. I don’t usually have that type of result when I’m in the classroom.”

She said she’ll most miss the interaction with the students. She called herself a ‘teenage person.’

“I love teenagers,” she said. “Absolutely always have.”

She noted their biggest concern was they didn’t get pie day. Clark made 53 pies for the freshmen last year.

“They didn’t get that because we usually do it in May,” she said.

She isn’t the only Clark to work for the Warren Local Schools District. Her husband, Allen, taught agriculture, while their son is the band director. Before she moved away, their daughter taught English.

“For the first time since the high school consolidated in 1960, there won’t be two Clarks employed in the school district,” she explained. “We both graduated from Warren and our three kids graduated from Warren. Our parents and grandparents graduated from Bartlett.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

At a glance:

•Pam Stephanik retired June 1.

•She taught first grade at Putnam Elementary School.

• Libby Arnold retired May 29.

•She taught social studies at Warren Middle School.

•Debbie Clark retired June 1.

•She taught freshmen modern world history and economics at Warren High School.

Source: Times research.

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