BY SUSAN SCHELL
FORMER TEACHER SAYS GOODBYE TO LIBRARY
Mary Wallace sat among a sea of cardboard boxes in the Kalmiopsis Elementary School library. Every book in the library had to be boxed up and put in storage until the new library is ready to open.
The stark, dramatic setting is appropriate; it seems to symbolize Wallace's departure from the Brookings-Harbor school district. Her position as district librarian was one of the casualties of the budget battle that has raged throughout the school system all year.
Wallace had the option to return next year in a teaching position, but said "I've been out of the classroom for 10 years. I didn't want to change job descriptions again. I'm retiring when I'm still having a marvelous time."
Wallace has lived in Brookings for 30 years and began teaching special education students with the ESD program in 1973. From 1974 until 2001, she taught kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade.
"It was fun," she said. "Last year's graduating class, the class of 2002, were my kindergarten kids."
Wallace received her librarian certification in 1984.
"I've always loved children's literature and thought being a librarian would be marvelous," she said.
When the librarian position opened up, Wallace jumped at the opportunity. She divided her time between the libraries at Kalmiopsis, Brookings-Harbor High School and Azalea Middle School.
"I enjoyed working with the staff at all three schools. When we're in the midst of teaching, we sometimes get focused so much on our building we don't have time to interact with the others."
Bouncing between the three schools gave Wallace a unique perspective on the dynamics of each grade level.
"Teachers in junior high schools deserve combat pay," she said.
"The level of energy (among the students) is so different there. They have a wonderful staff at Azalea. It takes a special kind of person to do what they do."
She has also seen the class sizes grow over the years.
"When the prison was built, there was a huge jump in the student population," Wallace said.
"Next year, they'll have new buildings, but the class sizes will still be large because there won't be enough teachers. It saddens me that we have been over-crowded for 14 years and now that we have the space, they don't have enough money to pay the teachers."
All in all, Wallace will leave with fond memories of her years at the schools.
"It's been a wonderful career. I've loved watching my' kids grow up to be a part of the community," she said, putting an emphasis on the word "my."
"When you're a teacher, it really does feel like they're your kids."
SUTTER WILL MISS MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Clarece Sutter will retire from the Brooking-Harbor school district this year, leaving with 21 years of experience. The third-grade teacher has a tip for her successors: "Don't take the job too seriously."
She does not mean that in a negative way, but feels it is important for teachers to put things into perspective and not blow small issues out of proportion.
Sutter moved to Brookings from Seattle with her husband and immediately began working as a teacher at Kalmiopsis Elementary School. Over the years she has noticed that the world has not gotten any easier for students.
"Children have more problems now," she said.
"Their families have more hard issues to deal with. That affects the children's lives. They have more to face now.
"If I had one wish, I'd wish that every child could go home to a safe and loving environment."
While at Kalmiopsis, Sutter taught second, third and fourth grade.
"I liked them all," she said. "Kids are basically the same."
Sutter reminisces on the things she will miss at the school.
"The kids. The growth they make in a year. When something clicks and you see a light bulb go on.
"I'll also miss the staff. They're really dedicated. The majority of the teachers work long, extra hours and do a great job with the kids."
Sutter's husband is retiring this year, but it was health problems that accelerated her decision to leave now. She is currently undergoing radiation treatment for cancer in Medford. A mammogram detected the cancer in its very early stages and Sutter makes a strong point of reminding women to get regular check-ups.
"My prognosis is good," she said.
"I was lucky. I didn't have to go through chemotherapy and there is a 90 percent chance it won't come back."
Although she loved teaching, Sutter said, "I needed to de-stress. Sometimes you need to re-evaluate your life."
The veteran teacher plans to stay in Brookings.
"I'll miss the kids," she said. "I'll miss their hugs."
RICHARDSON HOPES TO STAY IN TOUCH
When third-grade teacher Jeanette Richardson gave school superintendent Paul Prevenas her notice of retirement, she included some heart-felt sentiments.
"I find it extremely difficult to close such a wonderful chapter in my life," she wrote.
"I cannot imagine a more fulfilling career, nor a more satisfying reward, than having the opportunity to touch the lives of nearly 1,000 wonderful children."
Richardson is a true Brookings alumnus. She attended school in Brookings from fifth grade to high school. After graduating from Portland State University, she ended up spending 32 of her 36 years of teaching at her alma mater.
Richardson said her main goal as a teacher has been "to help the children in my class develop and increase their self-confidence and to enjoy learning."
At the start of each new school year, she introduces three new posters which she refers to throughout the every school year.
One says "I am a valuable and important person. I am worthy of the respect of others."
The other reads "Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, you are probably right!"
Richardson knew the constant reminders of those words had touched someone when a former third-grade student, Christine Kerr, quoted one of the posters at her high school graduation: "Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better. And your better best."
The school teacher said she can not pick out a favorite memory, as there are too many.
"I am going to miss the process of starting out a new year with a group of children and the development of relationships with the class, relationships that deepen as the school year progresses.
"Something that I truly appreciate is when former students come back to say hello and share a memory (of) when they were in third grade."
Richardson looks forward to moving on to the next chapter in her life and new adventures.
"I hope to stay in touch rather than say goodbye," she said.