In 1988 Ray Bradbury was quoted to have said, “First you jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down.”
Betty Miller said those words are her inspiration in retirement.
Miller is one of 33 educators and support staff retiring from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District with more than 15 years of service. Thursday was the teachers’ and staff’s last work day.
Miller, Skyview’s school nurse who started in 1984, has worked in most of the schools in the district in her 29 years. She said the most rewarding part of her job has been working with and watching the students through the years.
“My reward is being able to interact with them,” she said.
Over the past few years she has worked with the children of students she had work with years ago.
“Some of the students I have followed through kindergarten,” she said. “I have watched them grow up.”
Miller is looking forward to enjoying the simple pleasures of her new life.
“I am looking forward to no alarm clock,” she said.
Miller said she plans to take a year without making any major decisions. Sometime after that, she has her sights on possibly heading south to pursue her interest in hiking.
“Who knows where I am gonna to go,” she said. “I have jumped with retirement and I will develop wings.”
Outdoor adventure is on the retirement to-do list of Wally Hufford.
Hufford has spent the past 27 years as a speech and language pathologist in Nikiski.
He started in 1986 working at Nikiski Elementary and later moved to Nikiski North Star when the schools consolidated.
Hufford works with more than 30 kids during the school year, including those in the Nikiski area who are home-schooled or qualify for services.
He said his job has been fulfilling over the years, especially when the kids are able to make the correct sounds after struggling with speech issues.
“You know then you have done something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives,” he said.
For Hufford, retirement means more family time spent with his wife and 10- and 16-year old daughters.
“I have big plans,” he said. “The Hufford girls are the biggest part of those plans.”
He said he is looking forward to watching more volleyball and soccer games, sitting in on piano lessons and getting outdoors with camping, hiking and bike rides.
He also has plans for a kayak trip in June and his first caribou hunt in the fall.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “It has been impossible to get time off that time of year.”
Elaine Larson knows exactly where she is going after she retires, but it’s going to take her a few months to get there.
After 30 years in the district, she and her husband are planning a visit to see their grown children in Seattle, and then they are off for a month vacation in Greece.
“We really want to see the world,” she said.
But first she will spend the next few weeks training teachers in the district a unique philosophy of teaching music.
Larson has spent her teaching career musically inspiring students of all ages. She came up to Alaska from Montana in the early 1970s to work in a cannery, and she met her soon-to-be husband at a church potluck in Soldotna that summer. The two teachers spent the next few years teaching in Kenai and Seward. They left the state in 1979, and later returned in 1986, realizing how much they enjoyed the Kenai Peninsula.
“It was a great community to raise our kids,” she said.
When she returned, she began teaching at Sears Elementary School, and stayed when the building converted to Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Sciences in 2004.
With her looming retirement, staff at the school found numerous photos of Larson over the years and dedicated a showcase for the display.
Mountain View Elementary also lost a member of their support staff to retirement.
Katie Carmody has been the head custodian at the school for 22 years. She started working at Sears Elementary in 1989 as a night custodian, soon moving to head custodian and later moving to Mountain View when Sears Elementary converted to Kaleidoscope. In her 22 years, she has worked with seven superintendents and four principals.
As head custodian, Carmody is responsible in keeping the building safe, and has worked with Kenai Police and Fire Departments on lockdowns and fire safety.
Another major safety concern is keeping the area wildlife at bay.
“I chase the moose off the playground,” she said. “It can be entertaining.”
In keeping with the safety of students and staff, Carmody has traveled to the Lower 48 for going-green training, to alleviate the need for harsh chemical cleaners in the school.
“I think it is healthier,” she said.
Carmody said she loved working in the school. Like Larson, she said she has also sees former students bring their children to school.
“I thoroughly enjoyed working with elementary school kids,” she said.
Tomorrow, Carmody plans on spending time with another set of youngsters — her 11 grandchildren who all live in the Nikiski area.
“I just need a change,” she said. “It is time to step up and just be the grandma.”
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.