PEARCY — Many students may spend 12 years or more in the Lake Hamilton School District; many teachers, however, might spend twice that many years teaching.
Such is the case of several teachers who retired in June. The following is a brief look at five of them.
“It’s been great,” Jerry Clay, 65, said of his 28-year career as a high school football coach and teacher at Lake Hamilton High School. “I’m very, very blessed.”
He coached at Hot Springs Central Junior High School for eight years and at Fountain Lake High School for seven years before coming to Lake Hamilton.
Clay retired as the head football coach at Lake Hamilton High School.
He and his wife, Jamie, who teaches fifth-grade at Lake Hamilton Intermediate School, have two daughters, Julie Clay, who lives in Pennsylvania, and Jennifer Clay, who lives in Fayetteville.
Jerry Clay is also a songwriter and plays guitar. He is a member of the Little Rock chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International.
“I’d like to do more of that in my retirement,” he said with a smile.
He’s been to Nashville, Tennessee, and even has a few songs that have been copyrighted. He also hopes to write a book.
Clay said he grew up in the Bear Hollow community in Sebastian County and attended Greenwood Public Schools. He received his undergraduate degree at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and his master’s degree from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.
“I’ve taught for a total of 38 years,” said Nancy Harter, 63. “I taught for 12 years at Fountain Lake before coming here to Lake Hamilton [where she has been for the past 26 years]. I’ve always taught first grade.
“I decided to retire this year because I wanted to go out while still absolutely loving teaching. This year has been the best year ever; I still am loving it.”
Harter said she always wanted to be a schoolteacher.
“When I was in first grade, I loved my teacher so much,” Harter said. “I wanted to be like Mrs. Martindale, and I never looked back. I always enjoyed playing school, and I became a teacher.”
Harter hopes to do some traveling and spend more time with her family, which includes her parents, Lloyd and Amelia Wacaster; her two grown children, Anthony Harter and Kim McBrayer; and her five grandchildren.
Harter attended Ramble Elementary School, Central Junior High School and Hot Springs High School. She attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, then Henderson, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree.
“I’m 62, and I had that number in mind when I considered retiring,” said Jeanne Longinotti, who taught art at Lake Hamilton Junior High School for 30 years. “I thought this would be the year. It was time.”
She taught at Cutter-Morning Star High School before coming to Lake Hamilton.
Originally from Magnolia, she is married to Michael Longinotti.
“I’d like to get back into doing my own artwork and travel after retiring,” Jeanne Longinotti said. “I do a little of everything [in art]; I would especially like to get back into clay.”
She said she taught eighth- and ninth-grade art.
“Eighth-graders must take a fine-arts class, which could be music or my class,” she said. “For ninth-graders, art is an elective.”
Longinotti has a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in art education with a minor in journalism from Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, and a Master of Science in Education degree in art education from Henderson. She is also [English as a Second Language] certified.
At age 56, Kathy Mahaffey, who taught junior high math for 32 1/2 years, said she knows she may be younger than most who retire.
“Everybody told me I would know when it was time to retire, and I knew that this year,” she said with a smile. “I’ve taught for 32 1/2 years. I was hired at midterm after I had finished my student teaching in the fall. I started teaching in January 1984.”
Mahaffey graduated from Lakeside High School in 1978, and from Texas A&M University in College Station in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology. She received her teaching certification in secondary math and science in December 1983.
She holds a master’s degree in secondary education and was named a National Board Certified Teacher by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards in 2007.
“I was the math coach for the LHJH Mathcounts team for more than 20 years (regional and state),” she said. I sponsored the LHJH Beta Club for seven years, and I took eighth-grade girls to Girls of Promise in Little Rock (a program to encourage teen girls in math/science/technology) for many years.
I also took students to math competitions (region and state).”
She plans to travel and enjoy her dogs during her retirement. She has a big trip planned in the fall.
“I want to visit the New England states and see the change in colors,” she said.
“It’s been a good career,” said John Welch, who is 62 1/2. He retired as an assistant high school football coach and physical education teacher.
Originally from Danville, he graduated from Arkansas Tech University. Welch taught and coached in the Clinton School District for five years before coming to Lake Hamilton, where he has been for the past 34 years.
“I went from a Littlejohn to a Wonderboy to a Wolf,” he said, laughing, referring to the mascots at Danville High School, Arkansas Tech University and Lake Hamilton High School.
“I decided to retire this year because I am 62 1/2,” he said, explaining that means he is eligible for Social Security and his benefits from the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System.
Welch said he plans “to travel, hunt, fish and see family” during his retirement years, “and work around the yard,” he added.
Welch said he comes from a family of teachers and has continued the tradition.
His wife, Diane, teaches business education at Lake Hamilton Junior High School. Both of their sons are teachers and coaches — Lucian Welch is employed by the Stuttgart School District, and Logan Welch works for the Sheridan School District.