Steamboat Springs Many of the teachers retiring from the Steamboat Springs School District this year would agree that being a teacher is a state of being, and not a profession that they can separate from other aspects of their life.
"Teaching is a life commitment and lifestyle," said George Weber, Steamboat Springs Middle School teacher who is retiring after 29 years.
When Weber was in school, he said, he thought his teachers were an amazing group of energetic and committed people and wanted to be like them."I've known since junior high that I wanted to be a teacher."
He said it's hard to know what he will miss the most when he leaves, but knows for sure he wants to continue his work with middle schoolers. He said he is going to spend time with youth through the Boys Scouts and the radio club.
Marian "Sam" Marti, a retiring high school teacher, said when she was in a sixth grade class, her teacher told everyone what they would become when they grew up. She said she was chosen to be a teacher, something she never forgot. After teaching for 24 years, she said she is going to miss the kids but is excited to have the time to pursue new careers and hobbies. "I'm retiring from teaching, not from life."
There are many aspects of being a teacher that are extremely rewarding, she said. "Some of my best (memories) were the trips to Washington, D.C."
Marti took several groups of students over the years on the Close-Up program to Washington, D.C. She said seeing how eye-opening the experience was for the students made her realize how much they needed to take the trip to understand more about themselves and the function of the government.
The profession of teaching, she said, changes from year-to-year depending on the students. Certain years, students can't learn enough, while other years students are harder to motivate, she admitted.
The challenge of getting students to become lifelong learners, is just part of the job for teachers.
Ron Schnackenberg, who is retiring after 29 years of teaching at the high school, said he tells all of his students that math is everyone's favorite subject even if they do not know it yet.
"Some of the most important things we learn are through the relationships we develop," he said.
Over the years, Schnackenberg said he had the pleasure of teaching the children of his former students.
It is not just Schnackenberg's students that thank him for his help, but his five children as well.
He said he has taught all five of his children in school at one time and has received phone calls from them thanking him for the lessons learned.
"They were all star athletes and wonderful kids," he said.
The greatest moment in Schnackenberg's career was when he accepted the Presidential Award from President Ronald Reagan for being selected as Colorado's outstanding math teacher in 1986.
"It was great. They treated us like royalty," he said.
The triumphs many Steamboat teachers had throughout their careers is something they will take with them at the end of the school year.
Chris Decker, middle school teacher, said the state championship titles in football and track won while he was coaching, will remain as some of his better memories when he retires.
"The lessons that kids learn in athletics will carry and support them through their life," he said. The camaraderie and excitement of an exceptionally talented group of students working together for a common goal is something both Decker and his students haven't forgotten. "Those kids are still the best of friends," he said.
He said seeing a student improve in a classroom is both the reason and reward for being a teacher. "Being around kids has been my life," he said.
The teachers are appreciative of the support received from the community through their years of service. "The school is part of the community and the community is part of the school," Weber said. "It's been fantastic being a teacher in Steamboat."
Along with the 12 teachers who are retiring, Delmar Coyner, a member of the support staff, will also retire after 15 years.
"Del has been an unbelievable maintenance person in our schools. He can fix anything. He is just wonderful," Superintendent Cyndy Simms said.
To give the teachers a proper farewell, a retirement party is from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday at the Sheraton Ballroom. Parents and former students are welcome to attend. Simms said there will be a bag for people to place a picture or note highlighting a memory they had with a teacher. A farewell presentation is at 9 p.m. and the band Legal Tender with Brent Rowan will perform for the event. Tickets cost $10.
"The purpose is to congratulate and honor these teachers," Simms said. "These people have given hundreds of years of their lives to the children and students of Steamboat Springs."