Editor’s note: Nov. 2 to 8 is the 10th annual Retired Teachers Week, honoring educators who do not see retirement as the end of their service to the community. The California Aggie spoke with some of them about their experiences.
The California Retired Teachers Association (CRTA) estimates that in the past year alone retired teachers have accumulated over 2.4 million hours of voluntary service throughout the state. This equates to the work of around 1,500 fulltime workers – a service valued by the association at over $48 million.
In Yolo County, CRTA members contribute 5,400 hours of service to the community, worth around $43,200, according to Pat Turner, Yolo CRTA communications chairperson.
Volunteers can be found in classrooms or various local organizations throughout the community.
One such volunteer, Marilyn Kregel, helped save an old schoolhouse in Woodland from being lost to history. The Springlake School House was built in 1869 and was a working school until 1949. Since then the building has rarely been in use. Seven years ago, Kregel and other members of the Yolo County Historic Society decided that this had to change.
Turning the clock back, they have returned the building and its contents to as it was over a century ago, allowing third-grade students from around the county to go back in time, even for just a morning. Eighteen retired teachers dress in costume and play their respective parts as a way for the youngsters to experience history first hand.
“In a single year more than 50 classes will visit us here,” Kregel said. “The children have a wonderful time; they are in awe of the different period, the different way of life, even the different toys!”
Kregel herself has a very personal reason for giving her time to this cause. “That old school house sits on the site where I finished my teaching. Teaching there is where I feel at home.”
This sentiment is also shared by many retired teachers in the area who find it difficult to abruptly end their relationships with the education system and return to work part-time.
Patrick Donlon retired as assistant principal of Davis Senior High School and is now in a part-time role as the athletics director, where he happily puts in extra hours.
“A major part of a teacher’s life is having that close, day-to-day relationship with colleagues and the kids. Each period [of classes] is like a family to those teachers,” Donlon noted.
“Most of our teachers have been teaching for 25 to 30 years by the time they retire. To lose that daily contact with colleagues and the kids, it’s difficult for a lot of them,” Donlon said. “I think every retired teacher I’ve spoken to has had a small feeling of loss at not having that special, close relationship with the kids every day.”
Donlon also represents another side to this situation, since he receives a salary. After a full career working in the education system, he said that a return to work is more than just a decision of the heart. For him finances play an important part, too. “My wife is disabled, and it helps with our expenses,” he explained.
As athletics director at a school where over 50 percent of students take part in sports, he often finds his job demands him to go beyond the call of duty for a part-time teacher. But for him the extra work is not a problem. “Coming back has been a different experience; I see more of the kids than I did when I was behind a desk,” he said.
Michael Cawley, principal of Davis Senior High School, said that although no retired teachers volunteer for the high school, two, including Donlon, have returned recently on part-time contracts. “A lot of teachers who come back do so to supplement their pay, to make life a little easier,” he said.
Whether working part-time or strictly as a volunteer, Turner of the CRTA said in an e-mail: “We have a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience and by volunteering we can continue to share this with the community.”
CHRISTOPHER BONE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.