Tell Me Something, Retirees!
The Bulletin posed five questions to a group of four retiring employees, who among them have 120 years of service to the children of MCPS.
- 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:
Dr. LaVerne Kimball
Years of service: 37 years
First MCPS job: My very first was as a substitute teacher, but that same year, I received a position teaching special education students at Redland Middle School.
Current job: Associate Superintendent of Elementary Schools
Fondest memory: I’m most proud of this watershed moment for the district in terms of the conversations about equity, teaching and learning, and leading. We deal with this intractable achievement gap and it’s unacceptable and it’s not the children. We have to really learn how to ameliorate this so we can have all students learning at high levels. The county is to be commended for embracing this work.
[Those conversations] really started during Hurricane Katrina. [Then Superintendent] Dr. [Jerry] Weast was talking about the tragedy and he said ‘We’ve got to see that this is about race.’ When we saw who was left behind with Katrina, you can’t say that race does not matter. Race and poverty. As we saw images being displayed of what was happening, he said, ‘I’m going to talk about it and I want you to talk about it.’ It gave me permission as an administrator to begin having those courageous conversations with my principals. I haven’t stopped talking about race since.
Advice: I think we should continue to have high expectations for every student and it’s also important to have high expectations for every adult. We also have to provide them with the support. There should be reciprocal accountability in order to help them reach their goals. Related to that, if you have high expectations, it’s incumbent on us to encourage the heart. How do we inspire and motivate one another so we that we can do more and be more to these students that we serve?
Biggest influence: All of my supervisors who have believed in me. I will especially note my first supervisor, Dr. Hiawatha Fountain, who believed in me more than I believed in myself. Successive supervisors that I’ve worked with—Dr. [Kimberly] Statham; Mr. [Larry] Bowers, Dr. Steve Seleznow , Don Kress, Dr. Frank Stetson and Dr. Frieda Lacey—have just poured into me and believed in me in an incredible way.
First day after retirement: You know that saying that ‘Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit.’ It is going to be the latter. I will sit with an attitude of gratitude that I have been so blessed to really engage in what I consider my calling. I need to exhale and sit and reflect.
New hobby: After I have an opportunity to catch my breath and learn to live in the moment and do not have work taking up my every moment, I look forward to nurturing relationships with family and friends and vacationing. Eventually, I would like to continue to contribute in the field of education or leadership, but on a part-time basis. I still have a passion for leadership, for the work, for addressing the achievement gap and seeing that all students are achieving at high levels. I can’t get out of the fight completely.
Years of service: 30 years
First MCPS job: Art teacher, Farmland Elementary School
Current job: Supervisor, Pre-K–12 Fine Arts
Fondest memory: There are so many fond memories. I remember teaching ceramics at Springbrook High School and I would stay after school with students who wanted additional time to work (clay is not easy to take back and forth from home to school). Many students would stay, work on their projects and request feedback as they worked. Responses would be individualized, but I often asked the students to think about elaborating on their idea, or think about their artwork in a new way, or think about the choices they were making and why. One afternoon, two students told me that they didn’t want to think anymore, they just wanted the answer. I told them the good news—that in art there are multiple ways to solve problems and each student would need to independently find the answers. At the end of the year, one of those students came by to say thank you. She said I pushed her harder than any other teacher she had, how much she had learned, and she knew that I cared about her best interests.
Advice: There are a lot of constituents/stakeholders in the fine arts so I think it will be important for the new person to take time to meet as many of them as possible and listen. The current members on our fine arts team are wonderful, supportive folks, so the new person is fortunate to be coming into a welcoming community. I think it would be helpful for the new person to build a shared vision for the fine arts programs in MCPS. I hope this person will continue to build strong fine arts programs for our students in order to have well-rounded individuals who are empathetic and global thinkers, and continue to build the capacity of our fine arts teachers as arts leaders in their communities.
Biggest influence: I think the students were my biggest influence. You always needed to keep their best interests in mind, whether teaching elementary, middle or high, working in staff development, working as a staffer in Human Resources, or working as the supervisor of fine arts. I have been very fortunate to have done a variety of jobs in MCPS, and each job has taught me a great deal, but working with students was a great joy and they taught me a lot. Whenever I am asked about what makes MCPS stand out from any of the other school districts, I can honestly tell them that we have the best students you can find.
First day after retirement: Maybe take a cup of coffee and drink it outside in the peacefulness of my backyard and count my blessings?
New hobby: Oh yes! I would like to continue to explore my own artwork and maybe take some classes at Montgomery College or Hood College. I would like to possibly take up some kind of music or dance. I found the teachers I worked for very inspiring but these are areas that I am lacking in any expertise. I would like to do more yoga, gardening and walking. I’d be interested in learning a new language. There are tons of books I would like to read. The possibilities are endless.
Years of service: 22 years
First MCPS job: ESOL teacher, Paint Branch High School, RICA, Carl Sandburg Learning Center and Longview School
Current job: ESOL teacher, Wayside Elementary School and Carl Sandburg Learning Center
Fondest memory: There have been so many. On many occasions, parents have approached me and said, ‘You worked with my older children; are you going to work with my younger one, too?’ That has been very nice. Of late, when I told my students that I’m going to retire, they didn’t understand what that meant. So I told them, and they said, ‘But you’ll come back. You have to come back and teach us.’ It was so innocent of them. There is a sense of love there. When you love what you do, that sense of loss can overwhelm you.
Advice: My major is English literature. I taught at the bachelor’s level in college. This was a big shift from teaching at university to elementary school children. But I fell in love with it because elementary students are in their most formative years. I learned the most in elementary school.
I would say to people who follow me that they should not take English language teaching and learning as a remedial program. Don’t consider it an intervention. Take it as an enriching experience, both for the student and the teacher. When you come from another country, everything is different. It’s so daunting. They should never give up trying to make the content comprehensible and afford the same delight of learning to these students. They are very eager learners.
Biggest influence: There’s not one single person. When I was first hired, it was Maria Malagon. She was very accessible and knowledgeable, always valuing my input. Parents have always been very alert to what’s going on in the classroom. I like that; I like to be accountable. Good partnerships are important. All my coworkers are such skilled people; I can always approach them for help. I must add the students; they will always continue to make an invaluable mark on my mind, heart and actions. All this has helped me to do my job with confidence.
First day after retirement: Both my daughters are grown; they are successful physicians. They keep telling me to plan a vacation with Dad. I don’t know how I will feel. But I like to go for long walks and reflect on life. There have been many shifts in my professional career; I have enjoyed them all.
New hobby: We have groups of friends who do different things—dance, yoga, talk about spirituality. I want to have some formal lessons to learn how to dance and sing. My children want me to write something, like a book. We have three grandchildren, also. One of my daughters is in Boston and one is in California.
Years of service: 31 years
First MCPS job: Playground assistant, S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary School
Current job: Special education paraeducator, Spark M. Matsunaga Elementary School
Fondest memory: I went from being on the playground to special ed. They were self-contained classrooms. I worked with Marie Paradiso, who taught me so much. One year, we had kids who were going on to middle school and they wanted to do a party for the teacher. One of them said, ‘She’s like our dad and you’re like our mom, and we’re like your kids.’ I thought, ‘Wow!’ It was so touching. They felt that strongly about us.
Advice: No matter what is happening in your world, when you come in in the morning, put it to the side. Dig deep and come in with a smile. Find the patience you might need for that certain child. Know you’re making a huge difference in their lives. You don’t know what they’re going through. Show them love and kindness; that’s what kids need and it’s what they look for. Always let them know they’re doing a great job.
Biggest influence: All three principals I’ve worked for have been wonderful and have encouraged me. The first one, Gene Haines, told me to go back to school and get a degree in teaching. He made everybody in the building feel important; he knew everyone’s name. That really stuck with me. Judy Brubaker (retired Matsunaga principal) was always so kind. The principal now (Jimmy Sweeney), my colleagues and the resource department are unbelievable.
First day after retirement: My husband is getting a hip replacement in June, so I’m going to be a nursemaid. One of my colleagues is also retiring, Judy Ricketts. We’ve been together since McAuliffe. We’ve been joking and saying we might go kayaking off into the sunset.
New hobby: I have five grandchildren. Two of them live in Colorado and we’ll probably go visit. I’ve always wanted to do some drawing or painting, mostly pastels and oils. My husband and I want to travel. I want to get back to the gym and work out. The other thing I would like to do is mission work and go to the Czech Republic. My grandparents were from Czechoslovakia; my grandmother lived with us when we were growing up.
It’s bittersweet. I’m not looking forward to the last day; I’m very sensitive and will probably be in tears. It’s been a joy and a blessing. These 30 years were great; we’ll see where the next 30 years will take me.