Teachers retiring after 28 years of service
For two veteran instructors at Jamestown schools, this week, Teacher Appreciation Week, marks the last year they are recognized while still in the classroom. But for many whose lives have been touched by the professional educators, this will not be the last time they will be remembered for their contributions to the raising of Jamestown's youth.
Elizabeth Weibust and Linda Rezendes, who both retire in June, look back with appreciation on their teaching careers that span nearly of three decades. "We started together in 1980," recalls Weibust. Every day they feel gratitude in the regular moments of student learning, the teachers agreed.
Weibust walked into the second grade classroom where Rezendes has taught since the Melrose Avenue School was built. "Have you started cleaning out yet?" she kids the elementary school instructor, and reminds her that only 31 days remain until the end of their careers. Rezendes smiles, with a subtle shade of sadness in her eyes.
"Having a great opportunity to live and work in the same community, especially here in Jamestown, has been wonderful," Rezendes said. She mentioned siblings and new generations she has come to know over the years.
Weibust, who also lives on the island, nodded in agreement, and expressed satisfaction in seeing former Jamestown students and what they are doing now. "It's so nice to see kids I had doing something they love," Weibust adds. "It's one of my most rewarding experiences."
The joys of classroom teaching hit both Weibust and Rezendes from the moment they stepped into the classroom on Sept. 6, 28 years ago.
Weibust pulled out a black and white picture of her first class in Jamestown, fourth grade, and named all of the smiling faces.
During the first week, her class found out their new teacher was about to be married that weekend and the elementary students threw a bridal shower for her. "They only knew me for two days!" she said. The young learners showed Weibust their appreciation for her from the very beginning, she revealed.
Rezendes smiled as she remembered gratitude she receives on a daily basis from her second graders. Hired her first year to teach fifth grade, Rezendes took the opportunity to move to the second grade the following year, where she has taught since. Rezendes quickly points out that she enjoyed both grades, but her move to the younger proved to be a rewarding challenge.
Surprise notes left on Rezendes' desk show their understanding and excitement as the youngsters explore new subjects. One girl recently wrote how happy she was to practice her writing in a journal. "Second graders love all subjects," Rezendes said, admitting that she got notes frequently on all topics, from math to reading.
Weibust said that rewarding moments frequently emerge when spontaneity weaves its way into a lesson. She takes note of opportunities, such as stopping a lesson to look out the window and view the Ospreys nesting nearby. "We often get off track, and let that take us to a good learning experience."
Weibust illustrated her point with a story where a tangent turned into research and went on ultimately to change the mind of a young learner.
While instructing the pupils in writing persuasive essays, the sixth grade teacher explained they must include an opposing view and refute it. One boy, after he did his research, returned to Weibust to report that he could not do his essay because he had changed his mind. She showed him how to approach his task with his new perspective. "What a great thing for him, that he could then write his essay from the opposite point of view." Excitement for the boy and his leap in learning is reflected in the seasoned instructor's face.
When some staff members at the main office heard about the spotlight on two of Jamestown's finest educators, smiles spread on their lips, but with a similar shade of sadness in their eyes. "They will be sorely missed," the workers said.