BY MICHELLE MILLER
On June 24, Cooperstown Central School sent members of the Class of 2012 out into the world to begin new journeys.
The students will not be the only ones starting on a path unknown, however.
Nine CCS employees will be taking on the next milestone in their lives, retirement. Recently a luncheon was held at The Otesega to honor the retirees’ years of service to the district, but only four chose to attend.
According to Superintendent C.J. Hebert, those who did not choose to participate were presented with a token of appreciation from the district as well as the teacher’s association. He said he wished they would have attended, but respected their decision not to.
Hebert said this year’s retirees represented 242 years of service, collectively. Those who attended were Sandra Austin (27 years), Adrienne Lentini (14 years) Mary Tedesco (26 years) and Karen Lyons (27 years). Also retiring are Theresa Bliss (33 years), Adam Bloomingdale (30 years), Brenda Jaeger (23 years), Michael Pikarsky (34 years) and Laura Jane Reidhead (28 years)
According to Elementary Principal Teresa Gorman, Austin’s students are always the ones who know exactly what they are doing. She teachesstudents to be prepared, organized and independent, she said.
“They are the ones I do not see much in my office,” Gorman said. Gorman said Austin has touched thousands of lives. She read some quotes from students in Austin’s fourth-grade class.
One student said, “I thought this would be the hardest year of my life, and it is, but I really like how Mrs. Austin knows how to handle me.” Another said, “I never liked math until Mrs. Austin showed me how to do two things that I never understood and now I am never worried about math anymore.”
Austin said she believes she has been to every retiree luncheon since she began teaching at CCS.
“As I listened to the retirees I always wondered what it must feel like to be retiring,” she said. “Well I am here, and I’m still unsure. I am still in a state of flux. I love my career.”
People would pass her in the halls and ask how many more days were left until she would enter into retirement, according to Austin. She said until the last week she honestly had no idea because she had way too much to do to even think about it. The idea of becoming a teacher was suggested by a one of Austin’s math teachers, she said.
“Each of us had to present a lesson to the class,” she explained. “He pulled me aside, and here is what I thought he was going to say, ‘You know, you are working real hard in this advanced placement class, but it is a little bit too much of a challenge for you. Maybe you should go back to the regular track.’ But that is not what he said. What he said was, ‘Sandy that was a great lesson, you have a natural talent for teaching. Have you ever thought about becoming a teacher?’
Austin said she can only remember one question from her interview before being hired at CCS. She said she was asked to rate her teaching ability in a scale from one to 10. With the greatest of confidence, according to Austin, she said she knew she had a few things to learn but would give herself a nine.
However, throughout the years Austin said she did not always feel so confident.
“I often shook my head and laughed as I recalled that response,” she said.
Austin said there throughout her years of teaching she often felt like she was more deserving of a four or five. She said there were even days she felt she should not have even come in at all.
“Teaching is not the job for sissys,” Austin said. “Just when you think you got it right there is some kid, or sometimes a parent, who will come along and pull the rug right up from underneath you.”
Adrienne Lentini Gorman said all educators are special, but kindergarten teachers are on another planet of special.
“They take these wonderful little bundles of energy, joy and randomness and mold them into tiny people so the rest of us can have a shot at teaching them,” she said. Before coming to Cooperstown, Lentini taught classes of 50 or more students with no help while downstate, according to Gorman.
Fourteen years in one district is a record for the kindergarten teacher, according to Lentini. As Lentini introduced her 93-year-old mother, shesaid if she has her genes she will have a “nice long retirement.” “Mom is the one who instilled a love for learning right from the very start,” she said.
Lentini said one’s colleagues are the most important factors in the success of one’s daily work — more than what is taught or where.
“It’s your team and colleagues that help those good time roll and transform those challenging times into opportunities for growth and creativity,” she said. Lentini referred to the “King and I” song “Getting to Know You,” which says, “It’s a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought that if you become a teacher by your pupils you’ll be taught.”
“Just when we think we have seen it all, a new student situation arises to challenge us to help each student reach his or her full potential,” Lentini said. “This in fact is what it is all about.” She thanked her students for challenging her and helping her to reach her full potential.
How did Lentini decide it was time to retire? She said her decision was based on strength. According to Lentini, when a fire alarm system was installed at the school a few years ago doors weresecured making them harder to open.
“I joked and said I would know it would be time to retire when I couldn’t pull the door shut anymore,” she said. “Well I will have you know that I can still pull the door shut, but it is those thermoses that I cannot get open.” Lentini said her husband, Joe, gave her a book titled “The Art of Doing Nothing.”
She said she never took the time to read it until recently. After reading a paragraph from the book, Lentini said she is looking forward to “lots of frittering and flexibility.”
“2012 will be the endless summer,” according to Lentini. Both Latini and her husband have bucket lists. She said his includes skydiving, where hers is a little less adventurous.
Lentini admits there are a few things she won’t miss such as taco day and writing out plans for substitute teachers.
As an remedial reading and math teacher, Tedesco has helped hundreds of children, according to Gorman. She said having a 100 percent literacy level in America is very important to Tedesco.
Gorman said Tedesco knows how to have fun. She then shared a story: Tedesco came into her office a few years back, and very seriously, told her she was with child. It was an April Fools joke. When Tedesco stepped to the podium, her humorous side was revealed immediately. She thanked everyone for coming out on such an inclement weather day.
“As you know it is a snow day,” she said on that hot sunny day. “Oh, Oh you didn’t realize that? Wait a minute. Let me look outside. Snow day? This is a snow day and I am quitting this gig? Whoooo hooo! I can’t believe it. What am I doing? Wait a minute, wait a minute, I get 180 snow days next year. Na Na a boo boo!” Tedesco said the district has a different theme each year, and hers for next year will be to linger.
“I’m going to linger for a while with the people that mean the most to me, my family” she said.
It is tradition for retirees to come to school on the last day in some sort of unusual conveyance, according to Tedesco. She said those in the past have rode in motorcycles, convertibles and old cars. This year, retirees were brought to school by horse and carriage.
“What a wonderful last day,” Tedesco said. “It was absolutely one of the best ways to go out.”
Retirement is not the end of Tedesco’s contributions to education, however. She said she plans to come back to substitute and will continue her reading program in Hartwick during the summer.
According to Tedesco, students need to be treated as human beings and unique individuals not data machines.
“We have to know them and figure out what makes them tick,” she said. What is is Tedesco’s future? According to her, it is her next job, which is retirement.
“I plan to find the time to linger, enjoy some of the things that I have not been able to do during my teaching career and I will have to spend more time with some of life’s desserts (referring to her grandchildren),” she said.
Secondary Principal Michael Cring listed Lyons’ top 10 life lessons:
No. 10: Success is more than making money
No. 9: Life is hard and not always fair
No. 8: We live by choice not chance
No. 7: Being thankful is a habit, the best one you will ever have
No. 6: Honesty is always the best policy
No. 5: Kind words cost little, but accomplish much
No. 4: Goals are dreams with deadlines
No. 3: Successful people don’t find time, they make it
No. 2: Real motivation comes from within
No. 1: Attitude is a choice, the most important one you will ever make
Cring thanked Lyons for coming to CCS from Lake George to teach and serve as a department chairwoman for the past nine years.
“You not only made your mark on the many students you had over the years, but also many colleagues in the district appreciate you,” Cring said.
The business teacher said she was not going to come to the luncheon like the rest of her colleagues in the high school, but decided to after a “reality check.” She also admitted that she loves to be the center of attention.
Lyons said she wanted to be proud and joyful of her contributions to public education, but also wanted to be ready and excited to begin life on the “outside.” She said she is not quite there.
“I have definitely been able to live a life of a princess,” Lyons said. “I have gotten to be able to see, do and have pretty much everything I have dreamed possible for my career, my family and my special friendships in my life. There has been so many pinch me moments.”
Lyons said CCS retiree Susan Pochy was a big influence to her.
“I cried for two years before she even retired,” she said. “I told her she could not leave the building until I retired, so she is free to leave now.” Through a 17-year partnership with Pochy, Lyons said she found her to be a “saint and an angel on earth.”
“Susan is the only one in my life that can control me at all, and she has had one heck of a job over the years” Lyons said.
Lyons said she is not accustomed to not getting her way, and even though she did not initiate “this break up,” she does not feel it will be long before her smile joins the ranks of those who have retired before her who have celebrated long careers. Lyons’ position was cut.
“Just a word of warning though, if C.J. (the superintendent) wants to see you on a random act of kindness day, don’t go down there,” she said.
According to Lyons, teaching was an only choice for her. She said it was a perfect match. “I like being in charge and telling people what to do,” she said. “There is importance in helping young people transform into the people that they become. It is very powerful. Actually unmeasurable.”
Lyons said she has been and will always be a teacher. “Retirement is not the end of the book. I am just turning the page,” she said.
BY MICHELLE MILLER
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