Skip to Content

The Next Chapter

For many, retirement reveals new work, new purpose.

After years of dreaming how they’ll spend their retirement years, many retired educators find it hard to sit still once the time to leave school finally arrives. They want to continue using their skills to make a contribution.

Often, that yearning leads retired educators to new fields of work—from volunteerism to full-time employment—offering a balance of relaxation and self-growth. Here are five NEA-Retired members who are continuing to do work they love.

Saddle Up

Thirty-two years of teaching in Arizona’s Phoenix Union High School District taught Marcia Juszkiewicz the benefits of patience. Today, the trait serves her well as a volunteer at the Phoenix Zoo, where she helps to care for retired race horses.

Following retirement, the former English as a second language teacher cared for her ill father. To get herself out of the house, she attended a session on horses offered by the zoo, and later became a volunteer “keeper’s assistant.” She cleaned the horses’ stalls, and helped to move and feed them.

After her father died, Juszkiewicz began grooming and walking retired race horses. She says the horses and the children she once taught share a similar spirit.

Like children, she says, “You see [the horses] in different settings, and you find out different sides to their personality and learn how to approach them.... Sometimes they’re just misunderstood and from that you learn how to approach them.”

The environment is completely different from a classroom, but Juszkiewicz, who has worked at the zoo for nine years, says she feels at home.

“As a teacher I always valued lifelong learning. [Here], I am continuing to learn. I am physically active. I am around people who are caring. The keepers, who care for the animals, care like teachers. I am with a similar population of people—good, caring people working hard.

A New Chapter

Before retirement, Hyatt Hotel shuttle driver Renae Kelly spent three decades as a teacher for Omaha Public Schools in Omaha, Neb. Today, she says she enjoys having a job that melds her love of Omaha with her efforts to stay sharp.

She says the opportunity to share the great wonders of her city is the most rewarding part of shuttling passengers around.

“Lots of people will say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize Omaha was such a cool place!’” Kelly says. “I think a piece of that is my passion that I share with them while I am driving.”

A flexible work schedule leaves Kelly with time to operate a wine tour business with her daughter.

“You stay young when you are challenged by doing something that is not nearly as challenging as the day-to-day work of a teacher. ... You just get to be with the people.”

Kelly says she can’t wait to see where her life’s newest chapter will take her.

Classroom to Cornfield

Teacher-turned-farmer Art Tanderup says he and his wife always knew they wanted to settle on her parents’ farm. When his in-laws died, the couple purchased the property and today they spend up to 14 hours a day tending the fields, repairing farm equipment, planting seeds, harvesting produce, and more.

“There are always things to do. It doesn’t magically happen,” says Tanderup, who taught for 30 of his 35 years, in Tekamah-Herman Schools, in Tekamah, Neb. “It is sort of like going in to the classroom, you never follow that lesson plan exactly. Things change and happen and you adapt.”

The farm produces corn, soybeans, rye, and the less-common sacred corn. Tanderup explains that the corn was a special crop of a nearby Ponca tribe of Indians of Oklahoma. Together, he and the tribe are working to revitalize the crop.

Tanderup has been actively involved with the Ponca Tribe before. When proposals for the Keystone XL Pipeline outlined a path straight through the Ponca Tribe’s territory, Tanderup, in partnership with BOLD Nebraska, an indigenous environmental group, hosted “Harvest the Hope,” a concert featuring Willie Nelson and Neil Young.

Tanderup says he most enjoys the opportunity to practice environmentally friendly farming.        

“We do not till the soil, but rather we try to build the soil. It’s been very interesting and also challenging at times, but it is something we really want. We want to leave the place in better shape than we found it,” he says, adding, “Farming is kind of like education. You are growing food. In education you’re growing minds. There is satisfaction in both.”

Carrying On

Jim Grimes has been an adjunct broadcast and media instructor at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Ill., since 1974. When he “retired” he became an adjunct professor—a transition that was fairly seamless.

“I don’t feel I ever really left,” Grimes says. I have always been a broadcaster so in addition to teaching I was always actively involved in broadcasting. “I managed school radio stations and studios. I also worked in commercial and public radio and television.”

Grimes also volunteers as a coordinator of the Illinois Broadcasters Association—an organization that supports young professionals who want to enter broadcasting. Grimes helps to interview candidates for the organization’s Multicultural Internship Program, and says he has seen students move into large networks, like NBC.

Not Stopping!

Lola McDowell retired in 2013, after 47 years of teaching for Richmond and Baltimore City Public schools. Having taught every elementary school grade except fourth, it didn’t take her long to realize a life of quiet wouldn’t work for her.

“I was bored,” says the teacher who loves working with children and student teachers. “I sat around in this chair, and said, ‘Oh, no. This is not for me. I need to get out and do things.’”

And that’s exactly what McDowell did.

Before her retirement, McDowell taught student teachers at Richmond’s Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). After retirement, she wanted to continue working with student teachers in some capacity. When VCU contacted her about a position as a teaching supervisor, McDowell took the job without a second thought.

Today, she supervises four to five student teachers per semester, providing them with resources and, much-needed mentoring.

“I see every year how excited my students are to enter into the teaching profession,” McDowell says. When they’re excited, I’m excited. Every year I get more and more excited and fall more and more in love with education. That is how I’ve grown.”

History Keeper

When she retired in 2002, following three decades of teaching in Omaha Public Schools, in Omaha, Neb., Liz Rea committed herself to an exercise regimen designed to keep her healthy and out of the house. A year later, she realized she needed another outlet.

Eventually, Rea crossed paths with the executive director for the Douglas County Historical Society (DCHS). The organization collects, preserves, and makes public presentations about the history of Douglas County, Neb. The chance encounter led to an offer to serve as director of education—a position Rea held for more than four years.

Looking back, she says today, “I knew third-grade teachers in the area were obligated to teach about Omaha and Douglas County history, so one of the first things we did when I started my job as director of education was to invite third-grade teachers to write curriculum for our DCHS History in a Trunk project,” she explains. “It has been a tremendous success that has continued to this day! Our History in a Trunk now goes out on loan to teachers in four other metro area school districts.”

“Working at the historical society after I retired from teaching was the perfect topper to my career,” says Rea, who now volunteers as public policy chair for the American Association of University Women of Nebraska, and as secretary on the Omaha Education Association Foundation Board of Trustees. “I’m so glad I had the chance to work with very capable co-workers who all had something special to offer. I left employment at DCHS at an ideal time when I became convinced I’d completed all that I came to accomplish as the director of education.”

Workforce reentry comes in many different forms and the reasons are as different as the individuals making the decision. But for many retired teachers the decision is driven by one thing: passion. Just as active teachers are driven by a passion for teaching and educating every day, their retired counterparts are allowing passion to drive them into the next chapter of their lives.

Published in:

Published In