After more than 40 years in the classroom, teacher Cecily Noelker started thinking about the “R” word.
But in her case, the plan is not really to retire. Instead, she calls it “rewiring.”
“Education is my passion,” she said. “Instead of being in the fast lane, though, I’m going to go at a slower speed and take it all in.”
Noelker has spent 43 years teaching, first at Crothersville Elementary, where she taught first grade for three years.
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“I started there in ’77 and absolutely loved it,” she said.
She had been interested in teaching in Seymour, but the district never had any openings. That changed in 1980 when a couple of Seymour teachers announced their retirements. She decided to apply at Seymour-Redding Elementary School because she lived so close.
“I wanted to be at Redding,” she said.
Instead, she ended up at Seymour-Jackson Elementary School, where she stayed for 36 years, most of which was teaching fourth grade.
Four years ago, she was transferred to Redding, which ended up being the best thing that could have happened, she said. It gave her the opportunity to work with her former Jackson teaching colleague, Steve Bush, who became principal at Redding.
Completing her career there, Noelker said she feels like she is going out on top.
But teaching isn’t something she can just walk away from cold turkey. Since she was 4, she knew she wanted to be a teacher.
“I consider myself a lifer, so I honestly could teach forever,” she said.
She has already been thinking about opportunities to stay involved, such as volunteering or being a substitute teacher.
“I saw something on Facebook that was posted about teaching children of migrant workers,” she said. “I will always stay connected to education.”
But at 65, she feels the pull to have more time to spend with her daughter and two grandchildren, who live in Rhode Island. She also wants to further explore her interests in art, music, reading and traveling.
The big advantage to not being in the classroom from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday is she can do what she wants when she wants.
“I wanted to be on my own schedule,” she said.
There have been many successes and joys throughout her career, including being named Teacher of the Year by the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce in 2014.
But with the highs come the lows. She has faced hardships, including a battle with breast cancer five years ago.
“That blindsided me,” she said.
Through it all, she adopted her mother’s attitude of never giving up. She didn’t miss a single day of school during her illness, she said.
The best moments throughout her career have been spent connecting and celebrating with her students and their families, she said.
Noelker has attended weddings, baby showers and even funerals of students and their families throughout her teaching career.
“There’s so much more to teaching than the standards,” she said.
She took the time to notice and encourage students’ interests and rewarded students by inviting them to her home and taking them fun places.
One year at Jackson, she started ABC (A Book Club) with a group of students who proved to be exceptionally good readers. They met once a week to discuss books and eat muffins.
“If I had to give a message to new teachers now, it’s these children have hearts. Don’t look at them as just statistics and data,” she said. “It’s not just what we teach that’s important. It’s how we teach.”
That’s what made the nearly two months of eLearning during the COVID-19 pandemic so difficult for teachers like herself, she said.
“You lose so much of that human connection,” she said. “That broke my heart.”
Noelker said passion is something every teacher must bring to the classroom.
She shares her mantra of carpe diem (seize the day) with her students often.
“Really, we do try to make the most of each day,” she said.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Seymour Community School Corp. 2020 retirees
Paul Elliott, science teacher, SMS, 32 years
Rebecca Reasoner, administrative assistant, central office, 35 years
David Schlatterer, custodian, Brown, 11 years
Mike Hollin, custodian, SHS, 16 years
Katherine Williams, art teacher, SMS/Sixth Grade Center, 25 years
Herschel Zahnd, head custodian, SHS, 11 years
Sally Sage, bus driver/instructional assistant, SHS, 28 years
Mariella Wehmiller, art teacher, Brown/Jackson, 36 years
Cecily Noelker, elementary teacher, Redding, 41.5 years
Chris Kleber, social studies teacher, SMS, 36 years
Scott Robinson, head custodian, Redding, 3.5 years
Angie Lucas, math teacher, SMS, 33 years
Nancy Haehl, special education, Redding, 27 years
Berna Jones, language arts, SMS, 20 years
Linda Luedeman, principal, Sixth Grade Center, 31.5 years
Janet VanLiew, guidance counselor, SMS, 34 years
Teresa Thompson, dean of students, SHS, 35.5 years