This retired guidance counselor never stops pushing back her horizons.
The old saying, “Once a teacher, always a teacher,” has certainly applied to me.
I retired, from my career in Virginia public schools, 16 years ago and I am now 69 years old and still finding ways to learn and teach. When I took an early retirement – after 25 years as a guidance counselor in the Fairfax County Public Schools – I thought that my career as an educator was approaching its end.
My career had begun as a secondary school English teacher in the Norfolk Public School system. Then, I went to the Curry Memorial School of Education and earned a Master of Education degree and proceeded to earn another 45 graduate credits from the University of Virginia during my long career as a guidance counselor. I always say “I went to UVA for thirty years!”
Briefly after my formal retirement, I did volunteer college admissions work for George Mason University in Fairfax and for St. John’s College in Annapolis. My interest in historic preservation and in horticulture soon occupied my energies, however. I completed master gardener training through the University of Maryland and took a landscape design course with the Smithsonian Institution.
Eventually, my post-retirement jobs included work as a docent in historic gardens in Annapolis and at the Washington National Cathedral, and then I became editor and principal writer for a newsletter published by the Horticulture Department of Hillwood Museum and Gardens in DC.
Then we “retired” to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and I continued to be involved with both historic preservation and horticulture. Thanks to my other great interest, in social history and in royalty, I was invited to lecture about Princess Diana for the Friends of the Museum of Art when it was hosting an exhibition from Diana’s family home in Althorp, UK.
At first, I was shocked to be asked to become a public lecturer, and I was very nervous about it. I dutifully researched and wrote a speech about the beloved princess and anxiously approached the podium to deliver the lecture.
You know what? It wasn’t difficult at all. It felt just like standing in front of a classroom or on a stage in one of the high schools in which I used to organize graduations and awards ceremonies and such.
Once the ice was broken, I was on a roll and haven’t ever gotten over it since that first lecture. Soon thereafter, I was a speaker for the Fort Lauderdale Garden Club, which has many divisions and a large building of its own in a state park. Then I began giving lectures on historic preservation topics.
One thing led to another and I trained and became a Certified Tea and Etiquette Consultant, and I have spent the last four years giving “Tea Talks” at a local tea parlor. I also give talks at a variety of cultural venues and in a lecture series of a local public library.
Along the way, I have had several articles published in local newspapers and magazines.
What I enjoy most in the process is the research, but I also love to share ideas and knowledge with interested audiences.
When I was a senior in high school, myself, I was in an Honors English class, and the fabulous teacher of that class was always telling us to “Broaden your horizons.” Like a cheerleader, that aging woman, would proclaim “Push them back. Push them back.”
Well, I’m rapidly approaching 70 and still trying to push back those horizons.
I never credited myself with having a skill set, but anyone who has trained and served as an educator has more talents than they might even realize. We do know how to study and to do research and to convey ideas to an audience and get up in front of people and communicate with them.
And the large number of active retirees who seek to keep their minds sharp cry out for people to provide them with food for thought. So, you’re never too old to apply your teaching skills to new adventures and to motivate your peers with your own excitement about a lifetime of learning.
Helen appeared on the calendar page of the January 2013 issue of the nationally circulated Tea Time Magazine for a series of Tea Talks she gave at Lady Bedford’s Tea Parlour in Pinehurst, NC, on the topic, “Tea in the Era of Downton Abbey.”