Southmoreland High School bids farewell to retirees

At the conclusion of the 2018-2019 school year,  four staff members from Southmoreland High School will be officially retiring from their positions. The retirees include: Mr. Chuck Brittain who has taught English for 26 years;  Mr. Mike Saunders, who has taught history for 29 years, Mrs. Denise Saunders, who has taught math for 27 and a half years; and guidance counselor Mrs. Kathy Thompson.

These staff members have all contributed many years during their work at Southmoreland.

Overall, the staff agreed that the decision wasn’t very difficult because if had been in the back of their minds for a few years. Mr. Saunders expressed that him and Mrs. Saunders had been planning and working together to decide on their retirement.

“It was not really a tough decision to retire this year,” said Mr. Saunders. “I had been thinking for a long time that I would retire in 2020.”

Mr. Brittain said the decision was a difficult one for him.

“It was probably the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life,” said Mr. Brittain. “I just love teaching, so it wasn’t easy for me to decide.”

Mr. and Mrs. Saunders did not plan to retire together, yet they changed their minds due to certain circumstances.

“The plan we had was Mr. Saunders to continue working longer than he had to so I could leave earlier,” said Mrs. Saunders, “He was eligible to retire a few years ago, but he stayed until I was eligible, too.”

Mr. Saunders also shared a similar stance and explained his reason for staying.

“The major decision to retire this year, instead of earlier, was that my wife, Denise, would now be eligible,” said Mr. Saunders. “I want to spend our retirement years together, not waiting for her to return from work, or scheduling our lives and trips around the school calendar and/or snow days. I hated those!”

There was a monetary incentive offered to the staff to retire that will cover health care costs. That caused several teachers to arrive at the decision to retire.

“The incentive really helped,” said Mr. Brittain. “It will help pay for my health care. If the incentive wasn’t there I would have stayed two or three more years, but I had to look at the situation as what is best for my family.”

Mrs. Thompson was the only staff member whose mind was pretty much made up on retirement.

“My retirement was planned,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about it for a few years.”

For those who weren’t expecting to retire this year, the incentive became the dealbreaker.

“Simply put, no incentive equals no retirement,” said Mr. Saunders, “I love this job. I could’ve worked until I was 75, but with the rising health care costs and ultimately receiving less income, that would be a severe lifestyle change that my wife and I weren’t willing to make.”

No matter how the decision was made, all of the staff members expressed that they will surely miss their jobs.

“‘I’m really going to miss the kids and the faculty,” said Mrs. Saunders. “I won’t miss grading tests and quizzes, but I’ll miss the people.”

Mr. Saunders explained that he will miss more than just the student interactions.

“On a teaching level, I take pride in being privileged enough to be a small part of a young person’s future,” said Mr. Saunders. “Watching a scared freshman who has no idea what he or she will do in the future grow into a young adult with whom I work with is truly rewarding for me.”

Even the stress will be missed when the staff retire.

“I’m actually going to miss the drama that comes my way in the guidance office,” said Mrs. Thompson.

All of the staff agreed there were no regrets they would be leaving with.

“The only thing I would say is that I wish I started sooner rather than starting when I was 39,” said Mr. Brittain. “Mr newspaper experience helped, but it would’ve been fun to start earlier.”

The retirees will all be spending their retirement doing things they love with the people they love.

“I plan to simply enjoy every day to the max,” said Mrs. Thompson. “And exercise more.”

“I plan to move to New Jersey,” said Mr. Brittain, “There is so much to do in Jersey, and most of my family is there.”

Mr. and Mrs. Saunders both expressed their excitement to be with their grandchildren during retirement.

“I like to say that I’m trading in 500 kids for four,” said Mr. Saunders, “So we are going to spoil the heck out of them for the rest of our lives!”

As the staff prepare to retire, they do want to leave behind memories and messages.

“I am confident that all of my colleagues realize what a privilege it is to teach,” said Mr. Brittain.

Mr. Saunders hopes that he has made a positive impact in some way during his career.

“I will miss all of my students and co-workers, and the camaraderie and laughs we have shared over the years,” said Mr. Saunders. “I just hope that if they think of me, they smile and remember something good that I did, a laugh, or a good story.”

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