Retired Teachers Share Their Wisdom with 8th Graders at Caribou Community School

“You can learn to make our world a better place. We’re all different and no one has to fit into the same role.  I look forward to what you’ll bring to our future.”  That’s just one of the many pieces of advice Ms. Diane Fitzpatrick and other retired educators shared with grade 8 students at Caribou Community School during the retired teacher panel on March 27th.  

8th grade teachers Heather Anderson, Kim Barnes, Troy Barnes, Holly Rhinebolt, and Twyla Learnard take advantage of RSU 39’s Professional Collaboration Days to creatively plan events like this to connect students to each other and to the community.  Their innovative practices effectively engage students in the learning process. “Collaboration is at the heart of all we do and what makes teaching together so much fun. We laugh together daily, even when the days are hard.”  

Through one of these collaborations, an idea was born to bring together students and retired educators. Students would gain an up close and personal look at what schools were like in the past and retired teachers would have the opportunity to share their vast knowledge and wisdom as well as important life lessons. Learnard shared, “Though there were generations between the retired teacher panel and the student body audience, the connection was palpable. Curriculum advances,  technology evolves, and assessment practices trend, but the relationship between teachers and pupils is ageless. You can’t define it. It’s a respect, a trust that simply is.” 

The grade 8 team had previously met with Christina Kane-Gibson of the Caribou Historical Society to discuss creating podcasts to accompany the many artifacts on display at their museum. Adding student-created podcasts that share stories of retired Caribou teachers was one more way that students could immerse themselves in their town’s history and the rich stories that Caribou has to share.  Kane-Gibson and 8th grade teachers hope to have the artifacts and podcasts available for public enjoyment this summer.  

Panelists were asked questions generated by students on topics such as what inspired them to teach, changes in technology, and how gender roles have changed.  “When I was in high school, there wasn’t much of a choice for young women at that time.  You were either a nurse, a secretary, you got married or you were a teacher,” shared Margaret Cyr when asked why she chose to be a teacher.  Mrs. Cyr went on to talk about how, because she had played piano since the age of 5, it made sense that she become a music teacher.  

Kim Barnes orchestrated a photo opportunity that demonstrated the 4 generations of teachers present.  Barnes stated, “Mr Hunter was Mr. Willey’s teacher, Mr. Willey was my teacher and Lyndsey is my student who wants to be a teacher one day. So the idea that we can pass the torch is important because teaching is a wonderful profession. Teachers are amazing people and schools do so much more than educate in the classroom.” 

Lyndsey Ouellette shared what this experience has demonstrated for her, “Definitely to stick to it.  To always be prepared.  Know your kids and don’t just teach them, be a good influence for them.” Baylee Wright, another 8th-grade student, saw the importance of building relationships with students in what panelists shared, “Getting to know who you teach is just as important as what you teach.” 

Students will begin compiling their notes from the panelist discussions and will begin writing scripts during the week of April 3rd.  They hope to have podcasts recorded before April break and are very excited to practice their own storytelling by sharing these stories with the community.