Longtime social studies teacher closes one life chapter to open another
"The kids, the kids, the kids, the kids," said Meyer Middle School teacher Diane Brady about what she'll miss most when she retires in June.
"They keep you young and they're so funny," Brady added. "They just tickle me and keep me laughing. I just love all of them.
"Just today, I was laughing so much at what they were telling me, that a couple of them asked what I was on, or if I had taken some drug that made me so happy."
Of course, Brady reassured them she hadn't. She explained she was simply enjoying their enthusiasm and energy.
"It's time," said the 60-year-old longtime social studies teacher, about why she chose to retire now. "It's time for me to have some 'me time.'"
Brady says she wants to accomplish things she's put off during her teaching career, while she's still in good health.
"I have given this job everything I can every day for all these years, but now when I go home I'm exhausted. It's time for me to do the things I want to do while I'm still healthy."
Brady talked about some of those items that she's put on her "bucket list" of sorts.
"This fall I'm going to Egypt with my sister," began Brady. "And I want to be in my granddaughter's life." Brady became a grandmother for the first time in March when Rylan Brady was born. Being able to share in her growth and development is important says Brady.
Another reason to put away the markers and textbooks: "My mom and dad are getting older, and I want to be there for them if they need me.
"And I need to declutter," she said. "You should see my house. I need to get rid of all my teacher clothes. I'm so much more into 'simplicity' now -- more than I've ever been. I might even have an auction and donate the proceeds to the Dove (Foundation)," -- a middle school fundraising project that sends donations to needy Vietnamese children.
Brady is now finding herself teaching a second generation of students.
"Some of the first kids I taught are around 48 years old now," she said. "I want make sure I retire before they do," she said with a hearty laugh.
Also with regards to that second generation, Brady spoke about Meyer Middle School's recently hired Assistant Principal Mark Chapin.
"He used to babysit for me when he was a kid," she said about Chapin. "He babysat for Conor," who is Brady's son and the above mentioned Rylan's father.
"I also want to get to know better some people in the community and do some volunteer work," Brady said. "Maybe Habitat for Humanity, or the Restorative Justice Program, or Global Volunteers."
After listing all her reasons for retiring and what she'll do with her all her anticipated free time, Brady said: "My plan is to have no plan. My life has been too structured all these years.
"But to get my 'kid fix,'" she said, "I'll do a little subbing from time to time -- if they need me."
Kids are not to blame
During her 30 some years of teaching literally thousands of students, Brady says no matter what anyone else thinks, "I still think kids are awesome. Kids are really busy these days, but they can still manage to be excellent.
"But look what's out there for them. Look at what's put before them and handed to them -- all the cell phones, and Facebooks, and iPods, always walking around with things in their ears. They didn't invent (those things). We made it happen.
"And look at the quality of TV these days," Brady continued. "We used to have good shows that each had a moral to them -- like 'Andy Griffith,' like 'My Three Sons.' And look at today's entertainers and how they dress.
"Why should an actor on 'Grey's Anatomy' have to worry about earning more money, when a veteran (in the armed forces) has to think about where he's going to get enough money to pay his next doctor's bill?"
Benefits of teaching
Over the years Brady has tried to instill certain concepts to her students that are meaningful to her. Teaching social studies has given her the perfect opportunity to share those concepts.
"I always want kids to know how lucky they are to be an American," said Brady. "Being a social studies teacher has let me speak to kids about freedom and our nation's values and the price that people paid so we can have those freedoms.
"They say we're going through a bad time right now. I don't think we are. I still think we're in the best of times when you compare our lives to what's happening elsewhere in the world -- with famine and revolutions."
Brady also has a strong conviction for education itself.
"I've always told my kids they're ripping off the taxpayers if they don't do their homework," she said. "Education is a gift and every student should take full advantage of it. We spend about $9,000 a year to educate a child, and I let them know that."
Brady said she usually begins each school year with comparisons between First World and Third World nations, which serves to introduce some to the advantages American children have over other children in the world.
From the principal
Meyer Middle School Principal Mike Johnson was asked to say a few words about his colleague and friend.
"Diane has been a tremendous fixture around Meyer Middle School as a U.S. history/reading teacher for many years," said Johnson. "She maintains many positive relationships with her students far after she's had them in eighth grade.
"When I walked into her classroom for the first time, I will never forget all the items on her walls and displayed about the American flag, patriotic posters, and political cartoons to help pique students' interest in the subject matter.
"I see former students visit her in her classroom quite often, as well as at her home.
"I won't forget her work with Student Council, her organization with 'Activity Afternoons,' her dedication to the annual Washington, D.C., trip and the occasional time when she'd do the splits in front of 8 Blue.
"We will lose a staff member with a tremendous amount of personality and spark."