Retired teachers welcome new members to the club

By Wayne Bryan Published July 20, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Emilie Monk, president of the Saline County Chapter of the Arkansas Retired Teachers Association, from left, Nancy Hunt, Reeca Norman, Jennifer Crowson, Sharon Mitchell, Anettte Vaughn, Becky Fulcher, Gina Holstead, Toni Bradford and Donna Morey, ARTA executive director, were among the attendees at a meeting of the Saline County Chapter of the statewide organization held July 10 in Benton.

BENTON — Any major change in life can be disorienting, but it helps to have friends close by who understand the transition being made because they have made it themselves.

A group of retired teachers in Saline County welcomed seven more retirees to their ranks at a lunch in Benton on July 10, reassuring them that their path was well trodden.

“We are glad you came here

today,” said Emilie Monk, president of the Saline County Chapter of the Arkansas Retired Teachers Association. “We have been where you are. I know that for a while you don’t want to do anything. We all know about all those boxes you brought home from school that are still sitting there. We have been where you are.”

The association invited the seven women who recently retired from teaching in Bauxite, Benton, Bryant and Benton Harmony Grove, in hopes that they would join the statewide organization that works with state lawmakers in securing benefits for the teachers who have dedicated decades in the classroom to Arkansas children.

The local chapter of ARTA also wanted the new former teachers to know they could join the chapter’s social circle of retired educators, a group that still works together to help Saline County residents.

In 2013, the Saline County Chapter of the retired teachers organization was honored for its support of a local organization that provides food and clothing for those in need. According to the statement recognizing the Saline County retired teachers’ efforts, the group “goes above and beyond by contacting the relief organization prior to each [association] meeting to see which items are most needed. Members are then notified so that specific items can be obtained.”

During lunch, the teachers who retired at the end of the school year talked about the experience with those who had been retired longer.

“I wanted to make sure the staff and the kids didn’t cry about my leaving,” said Nancy Hunt, who left Bryant High School after 38 years as an English teacher, “but they had a party.”

Several of the teachers talked about the changes they had seen over the years they had taught.

Hunt said her classes had included very little grammar training in her later years.

“I taught more grammar in the ACT prep classes than in the regular English classes,” she said. “Those were mostly literature.”

Asked about her favorite literature to teach, Hunt quickly replied that it was Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck.

“It is relevant to the kids, and it is about friendship,” she said. “It is about a period of time they know nothing about. When I told them people in those days had nothing, they had no concept. Kids today don’t understand.”

Jennifer Crowson, who had been a teacher for 31 years in Malvern and Benton and who wound up her career as a kindergarten teacher, said young children have to know more today than beginning students did a generation ago.

“Children are expected to exceed their age level today,” she said. “They are pushed to at least a grade ahead of where 5-year-olds used to be.”

Sharon Mitchell, who retired after 38 years and ended her career as a kindergarten teacher for the Bryant Public Schools, said she thinks the biggest change in the students is their home life. Mitchell said school does not seem as important for youngsters as it did in earlier years.

Along with the welcome from local chapter leaders, the new retirees heard from Donna Morey, executive director of the statewide organization.

“The ARTA has three functions,” she told the gathering in Benton. “We have a strong pension system, we are advocates for the best insurance, and we have a travel section.”

Morey said that with the state facing price increases for insurance, a special session of the Arkansas Legislature was held a few weeks ago to look at insurance benefits for the state’s teachers, and major changes are expected.

“It’s not pretty,” Morey said. “We have taken a big hit.”

She said recommendations on changes in teacher’s insurance are expected in mid-August.

Several of the recently retired teachers said they do not know how they will react when school starts this fall without them. Several said they plan to be out of town when the school buses once more take to the road.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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