Teachers Retire, Share Experiences

Closing Highcroft causes long-time teachers to leave

June 1, 2022

Sara+Derus%2C+second+grade+teacher%2C+and+Andrea+Schemel%2C+teaching+assistant%2C+instruct+second+graders+in+room+number+225+at+the+Highcroft+campus.+The+students+work+on+their+tablets+while+assistance+is+offered.+Engaged+in+the+work+at+hand%2C+the+students+remain+focused+and+concentrated.

Bernadette Whitely

Sara Derus, second grade teacher, and Andrea Schemel, teaching assistant, instruct second graders in room number 225 at the Highcroft campus. The students work on their tablets while assistance is offered. Engaged in the work at hand, the students remain focused and concentrated.

The impending closure of the Highcroft campus and the subsequent opening of the Early Learning Center has brought a lot of attention to Blake’s lower school. The extensive list of lower school teachers retiring are among the many changes that the lower school community will face over the next few years. 

For Cynthia Hechter, who has been Highcroft’s theater teacher for the past 28 years, the closure of Highcroft is sad to think about. She explains, “I am heartsick that Highcroft is closing. I think everyone who works at Highcroft is heartsick about that… I definitely understand that it makes sense for the school. I can see that this is a good opportunity for Blake as an institution.” 

Lower school art teacher Jackie Quinn allows students to explore their creativity with drawing and origami-style projects. In class, she had students work independently on homemade gifts for Mother’s Day. (Bernadette Whitely)

Similarly, many of the retirees have mixed feelings about leaving teaching and the new change it will bring to their lives. Anne VanderVorste, a Hopkins kindergarten teacher in her 31st year at Blake, explains, “Even though I’m looking forward to retiring, it’s bittersweet… I’ll miss the sense of having my space and having my class.” 

David Burton, a Hopkins second grade teacher for the past 29 years, agrees. He says, “It’s amazing to watch the growth that happens in the nine months of school…I’m sure I will miss it. Right now, leaving feels really bittersweet.”

While some retirees have plans in place for the future, many are unsure how they will fill the void after stepping away from teaching. Martha Long, a Hopkins fifth grade teacher in her 24th year at Blake, says she needs to find something to occupy her new freetime, she explains, “I’m not the kind of person that can stay home and read all day. You have to have a purpose in life and that is what teaching has brought me.” 

Hechter wants to continue learning through retirement, she adds, “You know how we say we prepare the students to be lifelong learners, I’m trying to encourage myself to be a lifelong learner now that I’m stepping away from the very regimented school schedule.” 

A common theme amongst the retirees was a sense of gratitude for the time they have spent at Blake. Hechter describes, “It’s been a wonderful time at Blake and I will go forth into the world being a very much richer person for all of my experiences at Blake. I feel that sincerely.” Burton concurs, “It’s been a joyful career here at Blake… I can’t imagine having done anything differently. I feel so incredibly fortunate that I was able to do this gig.”

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