Retiring teachers reflect on decades in the classroom

Four superannuated teachers pose for a photo Wednesday. From left to right, Lori Belyea, Claude jalbert, Joanne Sander and Tammy Morin. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The Prince Albert Teachers’ Association said goodbye to some of its longest-serving members Wednesday night.

The annual superannuation dinner was a chance to look back on the careers of several retiring teachers, including four who made the journey to the Coronet for the evening’s activities. The retiring educators combine for decades spent in the classrooms, and each of them had fond memories of the professions they were about to leave behind.

Joanne Sander has been teaching for just short of 25 years. She has spent time at Rivier and, most recently, at St. John’s school. It was her time at Rivier that Sander recounted when asked what her favourite memory was.

“When I was at Rivier, I was part of the travel club. The Grade 11s went to Europe every spring, and I got to go on that trip as a chaperone for 15 years,” she said.

I love travelling, and it’s really broadened y horizons, and I love to watch the kids learn about different things in other countries.”

Sander teaches English, social studies and religion. While she teaches the curriculum, Sander said it’s more important to give the kids life lessons they can take home with them.

Seeing that growth in the students is one of the things Sander will miss the most about the teaching profession. That, and her coworkers.

“I’ve worked with fabulous staffs,” she said, “and the kids, the students with their quirkiness, some of them are very, very interesting … watching them grow from one year to the next. When I was at Rivier, I was there for about 18 years, watching them grow from Grade 7 to graduation. That is quite awesome to watch.”

Sander picked up that travel bug while teaching, and it’s still with her. She has five major trips booked and paid for taking place, with her husband, over the next 10 months. She’s also looking forward to spending time with her grandkids.

Another retiring teacher is also looking to do some travelling in her retirement.

Lori Belyea has taught for 25 years, of which 23 have been at Queen Mary School. Recently she’s been working with the littlest students, the pre-k classes.

She said the best part has been “creating learning with the kids.

“You just never know where the day is going to go,” she said. “It just starts and then eventually it’s done. You go from one thing to the next.”

Belyea said there was no one moment that stuck out in her mind, but thousands of little memories here and there she’ll carry with her, including choirs and dramas, from her two and a half decades teaching.

The longest-serving teacher honoured was former Rivier math teacher Claude Jalbert. He actually superannuated last year, and has been spending the 2017-2018 school year doing part-time work at Saskatchewan Polytechnic and some substitute teaching. Prior to that, he spent 34 years as a teacher.

For him, the best part was helping students understand that they could do it.

“Just being able to see students get those ‘aha’ moments and say ‘hey, I can get this, I can do this,’” he said.

“Hopefully I’ve had more of those than the opposite, the frustration students sometimes feel. It’s nice when they actually make those connections and say ‘you know what, I can do this.’ It makes me feel good as a teacher.”

He also said he’d miss the day-to-day routines of meeting with staff and students, but was looking forward to the superannuation dinner.

“To soak up that opportunity to be honoured by your peers, I appreciate that,” he said.

Like Jalbert, Tammy Morin will miss the students. Spending time as a teacher and as a teacher-administrator for 28 years, Morin retired ahead of schedule to help care for her two-year-old granddaughter.

“I’m eligible, but (it’s) a little bit earlier than I’d hoped,” she said.

“I have a special needs granddaughter. She’s two now, and has some visual impairment and some mobility issues. I’m going to help my daughter — she’s a teacher — I’m going to be the granny nanny, and work on interventions because I don’t think just a babysitter for the day will quite cut it for my granddaughter. I want to bridge that gap before she heads into school.”

Morin has spent the last nine years as a teaching principal in smaller communities, like Big River.

“The kids are the best part, hands down,” she said.

“Mostly every day is fine with them. Most behaviours are fine, most reading goals are met, it’s mostly good.”

Having taught across the spectrum, Morin said her favourite class was a large class of Grade 3s. She said she always preferred the larger groups, and the Grade 3 students were the perfect balance of young energy and older independence.

“They’re slightly more independent. You’re not peeling oranges and tying shoelaces all day,” she said.

“But they still think you’re really something, that you know stuff. They’re not middle years where nothing you do impresses them and you don’t know sometimes if you’ve taught them anything. (With) the little ones … you still have that prestigious position with them, and they can do things on their own. It’s a fun age. They learn like sponges.”

While Morin is leaving her position behind, she’s not ready to completely let it go.

“I’ll probably be back to sub. I’ll probably be back,” she said.

“I’ve got a little spunk left in me.”