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Retiring Merced educators look ahead

Twenty-four teachers are retiring from Merced City School District campuses next month. Some of those veteran educators say it's time to move aside for talented younger teachers.

Others relish new opportunities to explore hobbies, travel and volunteer.

Teacher retirees include Mike Alexander, Claudia Beymer, India Cox, Judy Cromar, Sharon Davis, Roxine Doane, Karin Dunn, Carol Kellogg, Richard Lewis, Anita Marquez, Sandra Mata, Ann Miura, Cecilia Nichols, Anne Prather, Ralph Randall, Pamela Royer, Louise Schwemler, Carolyn Tassey, Valerie Templeton, Wilma Tillery, Jennifer Wilson, Sara Woodruff, Antionette Zeller and Sharon Ziccone.

Alexander, 60, taught third grade at Burbank Elementary School. He said his reasons for retiring are a mix of the financial and the altruistic. He spent 26 years teaching with the Merced district and 11 years in Planada, and plans to do some woodcarving, coaching and write some children's books.

"I will get 84 percent of my salary, and that's fairly decent," Alexander said. "Thirty-seven years is a fairly decent career. Rather than good young teachers getting laid off, I want to retire while I still have my health."

Beymer, 61, is a fourth-grade teacher at Fremont Charter School with 26 years district experience. She also taught in San Mateo and Quincy. Once retired, she wants to do some gardening, hiking, bicycling and kayaking.

"I was aiming for 20 years and made it to 26 years," Beymer said. "I just have things to do. My husband already retired a couple years ago."

Cromar, 61, is a resource specialist at Ada Givens School and has 21 years with the district. She and her husband are planning an 18-month mission for the Mormon Church. "It was just the right time for me," Cromar said. "I'm going to pick up crafts I put off a long time. We have eight children and plan to travel and visit them in Texas, Alabama, Washington and Utah."

Davis, 68, a Hoover Middle School teacher, has taught with the district for 15 years. She probably will substitute teach from time to time. "I decided two months ago," Davis said. "I feel the need to explore other possibilities in life. It has nothing to do with issues with the school district; it was time and I was ready to go. I'd like to spend some time with programs dealing with mental illness and-or the homeless. The time's right."

Kellogg is a Reyes School fourth- and fifth-grade teacher with 21 years' district experience. She also taught for three years with the Kings View Work Experience Center. Future plans include gardening and sewing. "My daughter is going to have a baby and I want to take up painting and refinish furniture," Kellogg said. "I love to read and just decided I was working too hard and putting in lots of hours. I've got to stop."

Music teacher Lewis, 63, taught for 26 years, 17 of them at Hoover Middle School and the rest at Cruickshank Middle School. He plans to stay involved in music somehow and may do some substitute teaching from time to time. "It's time," Lewis said. "I looked at the job I do and it's a young person's job. They (students) deserve the best."

Marquez, 58, is a second-grade teacher at Peterson School who has 22 years with the district and 34 years teaching experience. She also was a speech therapist for the Merced County Office of Education. "Why did I retire? One word: play," Marquez said. "I figured it was time for a change, do something different. After a while I will do volunteer work."

Gracey Elementary School second-grade teacher Miura, who has a degree in social work, remarried and her husband retired. They plan to do some traveling. She has 26 years with the district. "I thought it would be a good time," Miura said. "I don't think I will go 'cold turkey.' I will be subbing."

Nichols, 62, is an intervention teacher and coach at Franklin School. She taught for about 20 years at John Muir School and was a reading coach at Fremont and Sheehy schools. "It's such an economic crunch," Nichols said. "I need to open up space for fine, newer teachers trying to get into the profession. It was a good time to give someone fresh a chance and move onto something else. I just want to enjoy life; I like to cook and spend time with friends and family, maybe do some watercolor painting and volunteer work."

Prather, a library media teacher at Givens and Gracey elementary schools, has 31 years district experience and also taught four years in Le Grand. The district's elimination of elementary school library media teachers caught her by surprise and she's not sure about future plans, although they undoubtedly will involve her 10 grandchildren. "It was a wonderful career. I loved it all," Prather said. "I wouldn't change anything. I saw libraries go from a repository to a full-on standards-based program. There's just no money."

Schwemler, an intervention teacher and coach at Fremont Charter School, said she thoroughly enjoyed her 31 years in education, 27 of them in Merced, along with Atwater, Exeter and Ohio.

She hopes to transition into a part-time reading clinician spot. "Teaching consumes your life. I am looking forward to having more time for myself," Schwemler said. "I've been very fortunate in my career; I thoroughly enjoy teaching. I love the reward of seeing a child become a reader, see the light go on. That is the absolute job of teaching."

Tassey, a library media teacher at Chenoweth and Franklin schools, turns 61 on Friday. She is retiring along with her husband. She has 30 years in the teaching profession, including Planada and Chowchilla elementary schools. "I am planning to do nothing for a while," Tassey said. "My job was eliminated and I would have to go to junior high and that was a deciding factor on retiring. It was the optimum time to retire."

Templeton, 59, is a second-grade teacher at Givens School with 28 years' district service. She hopes to volunteer at the school and help with the garden established there last year. "It seems like grandchildren are arriving now," Templeton said. "I'd like to do some traveling. I feel like I want a chance to exercise. You put everything into teaching. There's no time for me or my family."

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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