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Retired Teachers Returning to the Classroom

October 2, 2007

By Cortney Fielding, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Calif.

Oct. 2–Ty Gaffney spent 38 years as a teacher and elementary school principal in the Pasadena Unified School District before settling into retirement last year.

But Gaffney barely had the time to tee off on a round of golf before tackling a new assignment as the interim principal of Field Elementary School.

“I don’t think in my case I really ever intended to go cold turkey and do absolutely nothing,” said Gaffney, who also works with student teachers at USC’s Rossier School of Education. “It was more a chance to breathe and enjoy life and chose what I wanted to do next.”

Nearly 11,000 public school teachers retired during the 2005-06 school year, according to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. And more than 98,000 teachers, or 32 percent of the work force, is expected to retire over the next 10 years, according to statistics from the nonprofit Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.

But many educators are finding that retirement doesn’t spell the end of their affiliations with children and education. Growing numbers of retired teachers are finding their way back into classrooms.

And as the state faces a predicted shortage of more than 100,000 teachers over the next decade, some school districts are looking to retired workers to fill part-time rolls, according to the Teachers’ Retirement System.

“I find my retired colleagues still are involved, they haven’t gone cold turkey,” Gaffney said, adding that retired teachers are coming back as part-time teachers, advisors, interim educators, long-term substitutes and consultants.

“There is something about working with kids — it’s in your blood,” he added.

At the Rowland Unified School District, former teachers often return as substitute teachers, or work part-time as a teachers aides, said Rob Arias, assistant superintendent of human resources.

He added that it is not unusual for retired teachers to be active in some capacity with the district.

“We have a deep sense of family. They feel comfortable coming back to the district and seeing colleagues,” he said.

Now, a new bill by state Sen. Jack Scott, D-Pasadena, aims to encourage even more retired teachers go back into the classroom part-time to assist interns or new teachers learning the ropes. The bill would exempt these mentor teachers from taking certain tests.

Under the proposal, credentialed teachers will no longer be required to take the California Basic Education Skills Test. They also would not have to take new teacher training courses if they have previously taken and passed those courses.

It’s admittedly a small measure that will not radically alter the teaching landscape, said Scott.

“But if there are retired teachers are out there and they want to get back into teaching, why shouldn’t we let them, we should make it easier for them,” he said.

There is a strong desire among many semi-retired teachers to get back into the game, especially to help train the next generation, said Pasadena Educational Foundation board member Phyllis Howard, who spent 40 years with the PUSD.

“Some of them, when they retire they aren’t really ready to leave the profession. They know they have skills to offer, but they don’t want to work full time,” said Howard, who now works as a part-time consultant training PUSD teachers associated with the Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) program.

“We lose a lot of people with a lot of skills that could really provide support,” said Howard. “I think they would be willing, if they were given a reasonable salary. They could do plenty of volunteering, but who wants to volunteer for something they used to be paid for?”

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Copyright (c) 2007, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Calif.

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