Community reflects on retirees’ memories, impact
So far, 10 teachers have announced that will be retiring at the end of the school year: history and religion teacher Kimberly Rogers, beginner teacher Christy Black, upper school science teacher Dr. Donna M. Hull, beginner teacher assistant Carla Robnett, middle school math teacher Ruth Howell, upper school Latin teacher Dr. Angela Fritsen, upper school learning support counselor Dr. Hilary Hodgson, freshman class Dean Dawn Eatherly, Administrative Assistant to Head of School Sylvia Bogard and upper school English teacher Greg Randall.
With these teachers, the school will be losing 151 years of talent. All of them have worked at the school for long periods of time, allowing them to leave a lasting impression. Faculty and staff reminisce about the retiring upper school teachers and the impact they have had on many lives.
Randall has worked at the school as an upper school English teacher for 40 years—since 1982. His wife, Michelle Randall, worked as the school’s librarian for 35 years and retired five years ago. Randall hopes to teach his students the complexity of literature and the importance of telling their own stories.
“I love teaching,” Randall said. “It’s work, but I love it, yet you reach a certain point that retirement happens. I thought about it last year, and I decided on one more year… You get those classes [at ESD] when everybody’s channeled; it’s like a soccer match or a basketball game. Everybody’s on that same wavelength. You feel as if the discussion has led to something important.”
I have always loved the people who work here, it makes every day interesting. I will miss walking through campus and seeing so many familiar faces and friends.Donna Hull
And seeing these teachers retire is hard for other faculty members too. For upper school history teacher Claire Mrozek, many of this year’s retiring teachers are some of her closest and longest-running colleagues.
“Mr. Randall and I have been neighbors for more than 30 years basically,” Mrozek said. “These folks are a part of my daily life. I’m sad for the students who will not get the pleasure and joy of having them as teachers, but these are wonderful people who deserve to relax, do something different, and I’m happy for them that they get to make this decision.”
Fritsen has worked at the school as an upper school Latin teacher for 24 years. She hopes that her students learn to appreciate all languages and the people who speak them. Even more, she hopes that her students will learn to be kind to themselves and to be patient with themselves and others.
“The time has flown by,” Fritsen said. “I don’t know where it all went, so I don’t feel as if it has been that long. Keeping busy as I did, I never imagined going someplace else. My favorite memories are times shared in the classroom: getting to know my students, creating bonds and sharing inside jokes.”
Many students have created bonds with these teachers throughout their years at the school and will be sad not to have them in class or see them in the halls. Junior Kate Battaglia, who had Fritsen as a teacher for three years, said Fritsen helped guide her transition from middle to upper school.
“To have someone like that, who’s sort of a parent figure, is just so important,” Battaglia said. “She cared about what we were going through in school. She would do the most she could to support us.”
Eatherly has worked at the school for 27 years. Throughout her time at the school, she has learned how to manage a variety of positions, whether that’s from being a teacher of PE, outdoor education and culinary chemistry or an administrator in the facilities and athletics departments. Once she retires, she plans to live in her house in South Carolina and enjoy the mountains.
“I think just watching that growth and then watching the campus really expand and develop has been pretty special,” Eatherly said. “I hope that [students] learn commitment to work, whether it be your school or your job, that you need to commit to it and do your best and find a happy balance with the fun and the rigor… [Teachers] understand exactly what you’re going through, and sometimes it’d be nice if you knew we knew what you were going through.”
Rogers has worked at the school for 16 years. She lives so close to campus that she sometimes walks to work.
“I have loved the camaraderie that I have had with my peers and the energy of my students,” Rogers said. “I believe that I teach the most interesting classes, and I hope I was able to convey my enthusiasm for the subjects I taught. I also hope I [have] encouraged [my students] to be curious and ask questions.”
Hodgson has worked at the school for 24 years. She works with students who have diagnosed learning disabilities and sometimes mental health issues that impact the speed of their cognitive processing, and prepares accommodation plans for support.
“I’m always amazed at what students are able to do to overcome their difficulties,” Hodgson said. “I definitely enjoyed working as an advisor the last two school years, which was enjoyable because I hadn’t been an advisor before. And [in] lower school I used to go on a lot of Wolf Run trips, which I really enjoyed and have memories of. And then the colleagues that I’ve worked with over the years and the faculty staff, my department have just been wonderful people to work with.”
Hull has worked at the school for 20 years. The rigor and faith centered aspect of the school has made her the right fit. Though she doesn’t expect her students to love science, she hopes that they appreciate its importance in their lives and will learn, apply and possibly pursue it.
“I’m always learning as much as the students are learning; I have a job that requires that I read, learn and stay up to date in my subject,” Hull said. “And I have always loved the people who work here, it makes every day interesting. I will miss walking through campus and seeing so many familiar faces and friends—I wish everyone the very best in life.”
As for Randall, he enjoys the spirit of the place and the relationships that the community forms.
“The optimism, the ability to kind of laugh at ourselves sometimes and not to take things terribly seriously,” Randall said.