Long-serving Blair teachers to retire

June 3, 2011, 11:33 a.m. | By Maggie Shi | 12 years ago

Teachers reflect on changes during their careers

Six teachers, each of whom has worked over 20 years in the school system, across several departments will be retiring from Blair after the 2010-2011 school year. Retirees include magnet teacher John Templin, physical education teacher and athletics director Dale Miller, social studies teacher and testing designee Debbie Fickenscher, foreign language teacher and resource teacher Arlette Loomis, fine arts teacher Janet Berry and social studies teacher George Vlasits.

Retirement for these teachers will be based on a system for Montgomery County Public School employees who joined before July 1, 1976. This system requires the retiree to have 30 years of credited service, which is calculated based on scheduled work hours, or to be at least 60 with five years of credited service.

The calculation for retirement benefit amount is based on the average final salary and the amount of credited service. According to Vlasits, "I've gotten to the age where I can afford to retire."

For the teachers, financial security factored into a general sense that the timing for the retirement seemed right. Fickenscher said, "it's time for a change,” and Miller said, "I think it's about time." Vlasits also cited seeing a change in his teaching ability, saying "I find it harder, even physically, to do what I used to. [Teaching] wears me out, and I am exhausted more. I want to quit while I'm still ahead."

Vlasits started teaching in 1965 and came to Blair in 1991. Over the years, he said that he was saddened to see changes in the education system overall. "We've seen less and less emphasis on real education and more on testing. Students are expected to take less and less emphasis on real education and more on testing. Students are expected to take less and less responsibility over their own learning." For example, Vlasits said that he noticed how parents would complain to teachers if their child was doing badly in a class, rather than dealing with it at home. Still, Vlasits said that he enjoyed his time at Blair. "I like to think that it took a long time to find my home, and I came to Blair and found it."

Loomis came to Blair in 1985 after piloting the MCPS French immersion program in 1976. "After [the immersion program] became more structured, then I decided that I wanted to teach high school," she said. Before coming to Blair, she had taught as a college professor. The transition from private to public school system teaching was a demanding challenge, but she said the experience allowed her to learn a lot about both herself and her students during the process.

Loomis said that her proudest moment at Blair was seeing her AP French Literature class gain popularity, growing from a class of twelve to 90. Over the year she saw a shift toward more visual teaching methods. "I can see changes," she said. "There is more technology now, like Promethean boards and movies."

Miller began working in the Blair athletics department in 1983, and gradually rose to the position of athletics director, which he took on in 1994. Of the nature of Blair when he started working, he said that there was a completely different attitude in the student body. "There were a lot of problems," he said. "The citizenship of the students wasn't as good as it is today." Another change Miller cited was the shift in demographics in the students, which led to a shift in the strengths of the athletic department. For the future of the athletics department, Miller hopes that the new athletic director will be able to solve the financial problems the department has dealing with. After retirement, each teacher plans on spending time his or her own interests while still maintaining an active role in the community. "I want to see the world,” said Vlasits. "I want to travel to Europe or to the Mayan ruins."

In addition, Vlasits still wants to participate in education reform. "I'd like to do a lot more reading and also write about education-- books and articles." Vlasits says that he wants to participate in school reform with the teacher input, rather than from an administrative standpoint. He says that he feels qualified to help with school reform because of his experience in schools. Loomis plans on continuing her own education. "What I love about teaching is that you're learning yourself," she said. She wants to go back to school. Fickenscher is involved with the Special Olympics bowling team, and wants to continue being active in the community. In addition, she says she would like to help her disabled daughter move out.

The teachers all expressed excitement about a change of pace, but also a desire to remain active. Miller said, "I've worked long enough," and plans on spending his retirement relaxing and spending time with his grandchildren. However, he does intend to continue following Blair sports. "I have to keep busy doing something, though. I will probably come back to support Blair," he said.

Maggie Shi. More »

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