By David Judd, URSEA Executive Director
We who have been educators all of our lives are sure that education is the primary road to a happier life. What we hope is that the world outside of the school community will feel the same. I have lived most of my life among a community of successful businessmen. Many of them speak glowingly of their school years, in both their public and college years. However when I raise the issue of how hard it was for me to support my family in those early years of being a teacher, and how I feel that they may value education but not enough to open their wallets, they often respond with contrary arguments. They may claim I only work nine months and celebrated with time off for every holiday imaginable. I should be happy with what I was paid. When I look back on my early years as a classroom teacher, when I wondered if I would have an extra dime in my pocket to buy a soft drink during lunch, I only scoff at those retorts.
Not that I am retired after fifty years as a teacher and administrator, I am grateful I didn't give up, and I consider my work more noble and of greater importance than that of my more well-healed neighbors. I would hope that all of us who spend our years serving children with integrity and commitment, will take satisfaction knowing we have provided a great service; that dollars were not the measurement. When I run into students who sat in my classroom years ago, or invite me to one of their class reunions, I delight in knowing that I did my best for them. And invariably, they express joy in seeing me.
I guess that is our reward in retirement. Those wealthier business souls will never know that reward and admiration that we receive for our lasting selfless service. However I am glad that I am retired and not herding hundreds of youth every day. I like the peace and quiet.
The author is the Executive Director of the Utah Retired School Employees Association. AARP's founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, founded the National Retired Teachers Association in 1947 after finding a former teacher living in a chicken coop because she could afford nothing else. This led Dr. Andrus to become a tireless advocate for health and financial security in America; the NRTA eventually led to the founding of AARP.