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Paynesville Press - December 27, 2006

PAES teacher retires after 20 years

By Addi Larson

When Joyce Anderson ended her teaching career on Friday, Nov. 17, she had spent some time preparing before stepping out the school doorway and into retirement.

Joyce Anderson and class After 20 years at Paynesville Area Elementary School, in addition to her prior years of teaching, "There was a classroom to clean out; things to put away, or get rid of and pass on," she said. Upon recent reflection, she has realized, "I didn't spend enough time thinking about how much I'd miss it."

Amidst recollections of the sweet and humorous things her students said and did, the roles she played in their lives, and the affect they had on her, Anderson said, "I couldn't have had a better profession."

Her second-to-last day was her final day with students. Her last day also happened to be her 62nd birthday, so her farewell with students was extra joyous. "We had a party," she said of her send-off from the kids. "I treated them to goodies. So, we celebrated together."

Anderson decided it was time to retire for a few reasons. She had hit the rule of 90. Also, parent teacher conferences were held on her last day, allowing the teacher who took over her position - Becky Hecht - to attend, meet the students, and ask questions. And a new quarter started just two weeks before Anderson's last day, which also made the transition easier.

Anderson grew up in southern Minnesota and graduated from Mankato State University in 1965 with a degree in elementary education and an area of concentration in English and speech.

Her first teaching job was in Eden Valley, and she also substitute taught when her own children were young and she was at home raising them. In 1985-86, she taught fifth and sixth graders in Avon.

Anderson started in Paynesville in 1986 and taught kindergarten through fifth grade. Most of her 27-year career teaching was spent with the first grade.

Over the course of her career, said Anderson, "Kids have changed. Their learning styles have changed. They are exposed to so much more than we were as children."

She said that the curriculum has evolved and that she recently taught first graders concepts she did not learn until she was in the fourth or fifth grade. "I think technology has changed education in a big way and will continue to," she added.

Meanwhile, the social needs of elementary students has grown. "The stability of their home life has changed," said Anderson. "A teacher often has to be a parent as well as a teacher."

With the existence of violence and a decrease in servility among America's youth, Anderson has seen the dawn of lockdown drills in schools, noting, "We didn't have lockdowns when we were young."

When Anderson started in Paynesville, the elementary/middle school was short of room. "I was in a closet," she said. Since then, she moved around between the east and west sides of the school, and spent most of her time in Room 104.

"The kids; their hugs." That is what Anderson will miss the most, although she does have kids around her Paynesville neighborhood who also give her hugs. Of her students, Anderson said she will miss "the cute things they say" and "the satisfaction of seeing them reading and using the skills."

"Especially in first grade, because they are so open. It is so cool when they can do it," she explained.

She is happy to bid a farewell to watching the clock and having to be at certain places at certain times during the day. Also ranking as less-than-favorite job requirements were the schedules and report cards, said Anderson. "Kids have so many skills and abilities that a report card doesn't show," she explained. "Different kids mature and hit their best at different times. And grading made it so difficult."

Anderson offered teary-eyed gratitude to her husband, Allen. "He was always very supportive of my career," she said.

With many school nights that included paper strewn floors at home - "correcting papers, recording grades, cutting out, pasting, all of those things" - her husband was quite accepting, she said.

In her retirement, Anderson plans to travel with her husband and stay at their cabin in northern Minnesota. She also has family to take care of in Mankato and plans to visit her grandchildren and attend their programs and activities.

"Allen and I are both passionate about Habitat for Humanity," she said of the volunteer work she plans to do in Paynesville this summer and in the years to come.

Anderson said she has always tried to hold standards for her teachers and her students. "I guess I was paid to teach them to read and learn the curriculum, but my goal was to teach them to be the best they could be," she said.

She reflected amidst emotion, "Kids are kids. They all want to be loved. They just want to be cared about. And they want you to want them to do their best."

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