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Retired Teachers Have Much to Offer
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Each week, an educator takes a stand or shares an Aha! moment in the classroom in the Education World Voice of Experience column. This week, educator Joann Eldridge discusses how a new "legacy teacher" program in Worcester, Massachusetts, is the perfect vehicle for her to share 30 years of teaching experience while she watches the changing tides through the windows of her Cape Cod home. Included: A link to Worcester's "legacy teacher" program.


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Joann D. Eldridge

Last year, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts presented its teachers with an early retirement plan. After teaching for 30-plus years, I could not pass up the offer. I retired in June 2001, knowing fully that I still wanted to be actively involved with teaching on some level.

As the spring of 2001 approached, however, I began to get a bit restless. I thought to myself: "I am a young 62. What would happen to all the successful lessons and units I created? Would my entire stockpile of literature and technology and Internet lessons retire with me? What would happen to the Web sites I had created for my colleagues in the English department and my students? Was all my innovative work for naught? Would everything vanish into cyberspace?"

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I found that I had to convince myself that I had made the right decision. "Wait a minute!" I told myself. "Hadn't I purchased a place on Cape Cod for just this time of my life? A place to call my own, a place to sit and watch the tides come in and out, a place to watch the ebb and flow of each day? What was I thinking?" Spring marched on, and I wondered whether there might be a way of combining my interests: leisure time in a place I chose to live coupled with my passion for finding connections between literature, the Internet, online distance learning, and Web sites. I put out some feelers. Soon I met with Kathleen Peloquin, the Virtual Education Space (VES) online technology trainer for the Worcester Public Schools. As we talked, I shared my concerns. "It would be a crime if my creativity and innovation could not be shared just because I am retiring," I told Peloquin. Surely, retired teachers could still be valuable contributors to our schools. Successful teachers who have elected retirement should be able to be involved with teaching and mentoring. Surely, retired teachers have a legacy to pass on.

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A couple of months passed before I heard from Kathy again. This time, we talked via e-mail. She related that she and Charles Campbell, Worcester's technology liaison, were writing a Lighthouse Grant proposal to submit to the Massachusetts Department of Education. They wanted to include the concept of the "legacy teacher." The "legacy teacher," she went on to explain, was a way for a retired teacher's tangible expertise to live on. It was one community's response to the awareness that retired teachers have something to offer. "Was I interested in being Worcester's first "legacy teacher?" she asked. "Yes," I enthusiastically replied, "especially if most of the development and teaching can be done online." "Sure thing," she assured me.

The spring passed. I retired. Kathy and Charles wrote the grant, and that September I received another e-mail from Kathy. "We got the grant. Are you still interested in participating? If so, an online orientation starts on the 12th."

Was I interested? You bet!

Today, on Cape Cod, I sit at my computer developing a Web site, Advanced Placement Literature: Points of Light. Because I taught AP literature for more than 12 years, I have identified several areas in which students have the most difficulty. Now my mission is to create an online learning environment that helps advanced placement literature students while they take their course and prepares them for their grueling national exam each May. I am able to pass on those Anglo-Saxon and Shakespearean PowerPoint presentations; student-created, literature-based Web sites; Internet-based research papers; and Internet collaborative efforts to other AP literature students in cyberspace. I have a legacy to pass on -- and with the foresight of one school system that values its teachers, I am able to do just that. It's a win-win situation for students, teachers, and a school system alike.


Joann D. Eldridge was a high school teacher at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, Massachusetts, for 30 years. She holds a masters degree in English from Assumption College. While teaching, Eldridge wrote a grant for, designed, and facilitated an English Computer Center to integrate technology and the Internet with curriculum. Today, she is busily working on her Advanced Placement Literature Web site, which is being created in collaboration with the Worcester Public Schools, Education Development Center, Inc., and Blackboard.com. You can learn more about Worcester's "legacy teacher" program at http://www.wpsweb.com/wpsonline/legacy.htm.

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