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Five Questions … for Five Retirees

June 13, 2017

The Bulletin posed five questions to five retiring employees, who among them have 154 years of service to the children of MCPS.

The questions:

  • What’s your fondest memory from your time working for MCPS?
  • What’s the top piece of advice for someone just starting out in your position?
  • Who had the biggest influence on your time in MCPS?
  • What are you going to do on the first day you wake up after retirement?
  • Is there a new hobby you will now explore, or something new you want to learn?

Here are the interviews:

resizedStephenWhitingStephen Whiting

Years of service: 31 years
First MCPS job: Sixth grade math teacher, Redland Middle School
Current job: Principal, Clarksburg High School

Fondest memory: Opening Rocky Hill [Middle School] as part of the P.E. department. It was a brand new school where I could develop the department how I wanted. We did it with amazing people, like Jerry Lynch and Charlotte Boucher. It was a great experience.

Advice: You’ve got to love what you do. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a teacher or a principal. It’s about the kids. You have to keep kids in the forefront of what you do. I vowed when I went into administration that I wouldn’t lose the kid piece, that I would stay connected. It’s easy to get bogged down with the work. I may not be in the classroom, but I could still listen to students, still have a conversation, still find a way to teach.

Biggest influence: There have been so many over the years. As far as administration, John Nori and Jim Fernandez, who were both principals at Julius West, and Jerry Lynch at Rocky Hill. They made it real; they did things for the right reasons. They gave me an opportunity to make things my own, let me take risks and let me fail. They let me experience things without micromanaging. In my P.E. career, Tom Wheat at Redland, was hugely influential in how I lead and how I look at things.

First day after retirement: I am starting a new job on July 1. I’m going to be working for Special Olympics Maryland; my title is going to be senior director of athlete recruitment. I will be working with school systems around Maryland to get opportunities for kids with special needs to play sports. I have been working with them on a volunteer basis for years. I was selected as the head of the delegation for Team Maryland for the USA Games next summer in Seattle. Plus, I’ve coached kayaking and the ski team, and I’m my daughter’s golf partner. [Whiting’s daughter, Candace, was born with Down Syndrome and has competed in the Special Olympics World Winter Games.]

New hobby: I always want to learn; I guess that’s why we’re teachers. I like to run. I have been doing Ragnar Relays, they are 200-mile races that you run with 12 other people. I play ice hockey every Sunday. I’ve always tried to find time to balance; I don’t know how to live life another way.

5Qs Chris RichardsonChrisandra “Chris” Richardson

Years of service: 32 years
First MCPS job: Part-time teacher, Infants and Toddlers special education class, taught at night
Current job: Associate superintendent, Office of Special Education

Fondest memory: My first full-time job was teaching a special ed preschool class at the Taylor Learning Center, I had a fabulous class. I worked with a great speech pathologist and paraeducator. We did so much innovative stuff; we brought Head Start students over to our class and sent our kids to the general education class. At the time, no one was really doing that. Special education classes were quite segregated. I saw the impact on all the kids; they made tremendous progress. That class really shaped my thinking about special education, how successful kids should be, and the benefits for them to have access to non-disabled peers and the benefits for non-disabled peers to have these kids come over to their class to play.

Advice: Celebrate the small victories. With special education, it can be different. When I was working with Infants and Toddlers, your small victories were everything from the child being able to sit upright to learning to talk. To say their first word, to take their first step. There are developmental milestones for everyone. For kids with special needs, you have to break those small victories into really tiny pieces sometimes. You have to celebrate every day.

Biggest influence: The person I had one of the longest affiliations with was Dr. Frieda Lacey. I loved her passion and her commitment. She had high expectations for everybody and you did not want to ever disappoint her. She was out there giving 1,000 percent every day. I would sit in meetings sometimes and watch how she ran the meeting. The language she used when she spoke to people was always respectful. Her demeanor was always so professional and so kind. You knew she expected you to do your homework and come prepared. She made you want to be at your best every single minute. She listened to everybody’s ideas and had really good advice. She made you want to think creatively, and if you had a crazy off-the-wall idea, she would encourage you to think it through, have a plan, think about who your stakeholders are and how you’re going to involve them, how you’re going to build relationships with those people.

First day after retirement: I grew up on a farm in northeastern Pennsylvania. And my family is still there on that farm. I’m the youngest of six. Most of my siblings either own a farm there or have their houses on that farm. It’s a little Walton-ish. On the Fourth of July, there’s always a big family party. My brother turned a portion of the farm into a campground. The relatives all come and bring their campers, even though they live across the street. Everyone brings their dogs. There is a lake and a creek. People fish. They bring their kayaks. There’s a pavilion and we have a huge picnic and a fabulous fireworks display. It’s grown to include friends, and my siblings have children who have children; there will be at least 100 people.

New hobby: I want to get back to the hobbies that I love. I love to hike. I have been an avid reader and I’m in a book club and often have not read the book. And I hope to do some projects along the way, maybe proposal writing or some consulting. I will help do childcare for my grandson, who’s four months old. And my husband and I are making a list of where to travel first. I’m definitely looking forward to that.

5Qs Christina TregoningChristina Tregoning

Years of service: 25 years
First MCPS job: Second grade teacher, Germantown Elementary School
Current job: Academic intervention teacher, Lake Seneca Elementary School

Fondest memory: When I first started teaching, I taught a combination class, first and second grades. My fondest memories involve going to weddings and baby showers for many of those students. I’m extremely close with many of my former students and their families.

Advice: Be flexible and tolerant. For three years, the day before school was to start, my position was changed. You have to be flexible because change is everywhere.

Biggest influence: Teri Johnson, the principal at Lake Seneca. I love positive affirmations. I give them to my students; I think everyone needs them. Teri is very positive; she brought me here. She saw in me what my students’ parents see in me. She appreciates my efforts and my hard work and my love of teaching.

First day after retirement: I’ve started a craft business and a baking business. I have been doing it for awhile, so now I can do more.

New hobby: I want to do more with my business. I also want to travel abroad. We go to the Poconos every summer. I might do some tutoring, but mostly I just want to enjoy myself.

5Qs Doris GeorgeDoris George

Years of service: 33 years
First MCPS job: Bus driver, regular education route, Springbrook cluster
Current job: Radio bus operator, Randolph Transportation Depot

Fondest memory: All the kids. And the people. If you treat people right, they will work hard for you.

Advice: You have to treat people the way you expect to be treated. If you come off with an attitude, then people are going to have an attitude with you. Let people know what expectations you have for them and be honest with them. People appreciate that.

Biggest influence: My safety trainer told me a long time ago, ‘Doris, as long as when you look out your mirrors, you see the lines on each side of your bus, you know you’re in the center of the road. As long as you’re in the center, you’re good.’ It’s been an interesting 33 years.

First day after retirement: I will be in New York. My sister always has a big Fourth of July party, and I help her cook.

New hobby: I’m booked up until Thanksgiving. I’m going to be traveling a lot. I just returned from a Hawaiian vacation. I have a friend who is having her 70th birthday at National Harbor. Then I’m leaving to go to Hilton Head to visit friends. After that, my stepkids have been in Dubai; they are coming back and we are having a big party. Then, there’s a family reunion in Pennsylvania, then I’m going to Georgia doing a civil rights tour, then a crabfest in Southern Maryland. Labor Day, I’ll be in the Catskills with my sister. In October, my daughter turns 40, so I’m planning a dinner for that. In November, I’m going on a cruise for 10 days to the Caribbean.

My dream is traveling all over the place. I’ve never been to Europe. They asked me at work if I was going to come back and substitute. I might have to so I can pay for my traveling!

Josianne Butler5Qs Josianne Butler

Years of service: 33 years
First MCPS job: Substitute teacher
Current job: Teacher, Parkland Middle School

Fondest memory: Mine is probably the same as a lot of other teachers. I love having students come back and tell me, ‘Oh, you were so hard on me, but I needed it. You prepared me well.’ That always make it worth it. It makes me feel good about what I’ve done and the legacy I’m leaving. I tell my students, ‘I may be hard on you, but you may be my doctor someday. Or you may teach my grandchildren math one day.’ Recently, I had one student come back to say, ‘Oh Mrs. Butler, you had to sign my agenda every day because I wouldn’t do my homework. Thank you for that.’ Guess what, he is a teacher who will be teaching science here next year.  I’m leaving, but part of what I invested in is replacing me.

Advice: Get some sound financial advice. We are 10-month employees and don’t get paid in the summer. My first year teaching, I didn’t know that. I had to take a loan out to pay my rent that summer. Get some good, sound advice to prepare you not only for the year, but also for retirement.

Biggest influence: I had a principal who really encouraged me to try things. And there was a teacher who was head of our math department who encouraged me to step out and be a resource teacher.

First day after retirement: After I retire, I will wake up in Athens, Greece. My cousin who is turning 60 wants the family to go with her. So, I’ll be there.

New hobby: There is a lot I enjoy doing, like gardening and traveling. I love taking pictures, but I’ve never taken a photography class. I will be taking a class at Montgomery College, but I’ll wait until I turn 60 in February. Sixty-plus students pay no tuition. It will be good to be with family without having to grade papers. I am keeping my ears and eyes open, as I’m looking around to start a second career.

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