Goodbye Tension, Hello Pension

Retiring and resigning teachers reminisce on their experiences in the classroom, and look forward to a new stage of life.

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Goodbye Tension, Hello Pension

Spanish teacher Richard Newell accepts recognition of his retirement.

Spanish teacher Richard Newell accepts recognition of his retirement.

Central Kitsap School District

Spanish teacher Richard Newell accepts recognition of his retirement.

Central Kitsap School District

Central Kitsap School District

Spanish teacher Richard Newell accepts recognition of his retirement.

by Aina Zabinski, Editor

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This year Central Kitsap High School will not only say goodbye to graduating seniors and Co-Principal Gail Danner, but also to some well-known teachers. Spanish teacher Richard Newell and Math teachers George Petoff and Sandy Harris are all retiring at the end of this school year. English teacher Debbie Duane will also be leaving, as she announced her plan to resign this year and become a substitute teacher instead.

Central Kitsap School District
Sandy Harris receives recognition of his retirement at the Central Kitsap School District’s employee awards celebration.

Retirement plans for teachers vary by state, and typically retirement plans are based on age or years of service, and those benefits are multiplied by final average salary (for example, the average pay in the highest three years). Teachers with a TRS plan are guaranteed benefits at the time of retirement, which are not impacted by the stock market; however TRS plans are underfunded and some teachers are not eligible for social security. In Washington state, teachers may choose between three TRS plans. Plan 1 only applies to teachers who began their careers before October 1, 1977 so the only relevant retirement plans for current teachers are Plan 2 or Plan 3–the main difference is that Plan 3 includes investments and “defined contributions” in addition to “defined benefits” in exchange for a slightly lower percentage for service credit years.

Newell has been teaching for close to 40 years, and for about 31 of those years he has been teaching at CKHS. “I want to retire while I still have energy to do other things,” he said. “I have grandkids and I want to spend time with them. I like to volunteer and help people, and will continue to use Spanish.” He also is looking forward to traveling with his wife, finishing some house projects and possibly studying Italian.

He has most enjoyed teaching AP Spanish and the U.S. History and Spanish classes. Newell also remembered receiving the Teacher of the Year Award for the school district and ESD in about 2013. “I’m still shocked that it happened,” he said, explaining that he feels humbled after his experience working with colleagues and admiring their teaching skill.

“It has really been an honor and privilege teaching here because there are so many excellent students and nice kids, and there are so many great teachers here,” said Newell. “This has been just the best place to teach. CK High is by far where I’ve enjoyed being the most. And retiring is bitter-sweet.”

Newell commented that what he will miss most about his job is interacting with students–a sentiment echoed by Petoff and Duane. “What I will miss most about teaching is the people,” said Petoff, “[I’ll miss the] day-to-day interactions with students and colleagues, and support staff.”

Petoff has taught at CKHS for 30 years. Before he became a teacher, he worked as a mechanical engineer at Boeing for nine years. “What made me decide to switch careers was I thought I would be good at teaching and I was bored at Boeing,” explained Petoff. “The transition was about two years of education courses, which wasn’t bad, and I don’t ever regret making the change.”

Central Kitsap School District
George Petoff was also recognized as a retiring teacher this year.

According to Petoff, his favorite memories as a teacher are “seeing former students who have turned things around or said what they learned from me was useful in what they are now doing.” He also commented that CKHS has been a great place to work, and he looks forward to visiting the new school. But he feels that it is time for him to retire, and he said that he is essentially maxed out with retirement pay.

Petoff’s plan for retirement includes travel, possibly learning a new language, and auditing a college course. “What’s next is a bike trip in Idaho in July and an Alaska cruise in September,” he said. He also jokingly commented that he’s excited to not have to get up at “zero dark thirty” every morning for work.

Although Duane is not officially retiring this year, she has announced her decision to resign. She has Plan 2 of the TRS, but she will not be able to collect that money until she is 65, so until then she plans to become a substitute teacher. When asked about her motivation to resign, Duane explained that she now has five grandchildren, an aging mother and a step-father suffering from Alzheimer’s. “I desire to be able to give them more of my time,” she said.

Aina Zabinski
Debbie Duane will resign from her position as an English teacher at Central Kitsap High School and transition into her new role as a substitute teacher.

Duane has taught English classes for 20 years, five of those years at CKHS. Although she took a break from teaching to be a stay-at-home mom (which is truly a full-time job) and to run a an enrichment center for homeschooled kids, Duane said she always knew she would go back to teaching. Her funniest memory from teaching was when a student of hers at Ridgetop junior high had fallen out of a window in the classroom, which she later learned was on account of a bribe to jump out of it. “I turned around and I had a student outside the window. And I asked him what he was doing back there and he said he fell out of the window,” she said. Duane also reminisced about her experience watching a group of students that she met as seventh graders “mature into responsible young adults” by their Senior year of high school.

Duane plans to spend her time substituting, enjoying moments with family, traveling and gardening. “I have a son who lives in Zimbabwe and another son lives in Shri Port Louisiana, and I’m going to finish hiking the Camino De Santiago. Basically what we’ll do is we’ll find the good deals and go there,” she said.

Although Duane and the three retiring teachers have much to look forward to next year, leaving CKHS is bittersweet for them. Newell summed up his feelings about saying goodbye: “I’ll miss my colleagues, but I’ll miss the interaction with students most…I’m really looking forward to what’s coming but closing the door on what’s been is a little sad.”

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