This story initially ran in the June 9 issue of the Community Voice. For your own subscription, call 270-384-9454.
Deb and John Waddell don’t go very many places around Adair County without hearing a shout out from a current or former student. It is part of being a teacher, and something they will never get tired of.
Those reunions will continue, for sure, but the future will be different now that Deb, a sixth-grade science teacher at Adair County Middle School, and John, a district-wide special education teacher, have decided to retire.
“I think there were a couple of times this year when retiring crossed my mind early on because of classroom behavior,” said Deb, who said she actually walked out on the class this year because of student behavior. “I have always felt good that even when I had the hardest classes throughout my career, I was able to turn them around. I had one class I couldn’t do that with this year, and it was frustrating and mind boggling. It is so hard because I love these kids, but it just hit me that I don’t want to do this anymore. I just knew it was time.”
John has had numerous careers before joining the teaching ranks, working in law enforcement for several years before taking on a career in nuclear energy.
“I am 70 and I have retired from law enforcement, retired from work at nuclear companies, retired from consulting, and now teaching,” John said. “Teaching was my give back . I have had some of the most rewarding experiences here with the students, and I have had a lot of the kids teach me things.”
Deb started her 40-year career in education at a very young age. She said she learned you are not only a teacher, but you are an entertainer and a pschologist. Most importantly, she said you have to have fun.
“If I can’t go in and laugh and have fun with the students, then they’re not going to learn the material, and I don’t know if every teacher learns that,” she said. “You have to be human to them, someone they can relate to and that they can have real conversation with.”
John agrees. He said teachers must have an open mind and do a lot of listening.
“My aspirations did not line up with the world, understanding if you have 40 kids you have 40 personalities,” he said. “When there are changes in society, it falls on the children. I think a lot of kids come to school and it is a haven for them. That was an eye opener and a real blessing. Leave your degree at the door, and walk in and learn.”
The Waddells have said the world of education changes often, and they like a lot of what’s going on. However, if they could change anything they would suggest reducing the number of students in each class.
“They (students) are so needy in middle school. They need smaller classes, when possible,” Deb said. “Hopefully that will change with the new middle school.”
John said one of the best things he got out of teaching the past three years was experiencing it with Deb. They were able to ride to school together, ride home together and share common experiences when they got home.
“If I could advise young people going into teaching, I would say be organized and try to have fun,” Deb said. “Make sure you get to know a lot of people in your building because they’re going to be your biggest supporters.”
The Waddells plan to move to North Carolina during their retirement.
“The hardest part for me to leave was my teaching team at the middle school,” Deb said. “All the sixth-grade teachers, I have never worked with a team of people that cared for each other, were there for each other, laugh with each other like that group. You don’t get that with everybody. They were so incredible.”
By Scott Wilson