For these dedicated educators, being a retired teacher doesn’t mean they’ve retired from teaching. They continue to instruct and inspire, this time as volunteers in our local schools.
Karen Sorin, Etty Baru, and Diane Goldsmith taught together for decades. When it finally came time for the three women to enjoy a well-earned retirement, they decided instead to teach together some more. Karen, Etty, and Diane now volunteer their time to lead two after-school clubs at Rock Lake Middle School: the Shakespearean Theater Club and the Chess Club.
That the trio ended up at Rock Lake is surprising, especially considering the inadvertent first impression made by then-principal Dr. Jordan Rodriguez.
At an SCPS district meeting in 2016, Karen was given the chance to make a presentation to local principals about the programs she and her longtime colleagues could bring to their schools. In the middle of the presentation, Karen looked out to see Jordan pecking away on his laptop. It was quite rude, Karen thought, but Jordan wasn’t ignoring her. He was emailing her on the spot: “Can you all start at our school tomorrow?”
The three women have since brought boundless energy to Rock Lake, leading dress rehearsals of the Shakespearean Theater Club and running deep-dive strategy sessions in the Chess Club. They may not be putting in a full 40-plus hours a week anymore, but Karen, Etty, and Diane aren’t far off, either.
“It’s not just a little bit of their time,” says Janice Winn, Rock Lake’s discipline secretary. “It’s a lot of time. They don’t ask us for anything – they are completely self-sufficient.”
Karen and her husband Morris Sorin once ran a preparatory school, which closed after Morris passed away in 2014. At the school, Etty was the director of art and mathematics and Diane was director of early-childhood education.
“In many ways, we didn’t leave,” Karen says of the sudden end to their teaching careers. “We didn’t finish. We want to give back. Knowing there are kids in need of exposure to different things, we said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
The Chess Club at Rock Lake meets once a week.
“We have the best-looking kids in the school,” jokes Etty, making sure the club’s 22 members can hear her.
At the preparatory school, Karen began teaching chess to every child, even in kindergarten. She believes the game can reveal a number of valuable life lessons. For example, one of Karen’s old students was constantly in trouble. To keep him busy in the principal’s office, she played chess with him to help him understand the choices and consequences that come with any decision-making process.
“We always think in chess, ‘What happens next? What would happen if...?’” Karen explains. “It helps kids stop before they make a move.”
Likewise, students in the Shakespearean Theater Club aren’t just learning their parts. They’re finding their voice.
Karen says the theater experience is all about responsibility. The Rock Lake actors and actresses don’t just memorize their own lines for each production. They also learn the lines of the other characters, too, so they can come to the aid of a co-star who might draw a blank on stage.
The 35 students in the club meet twice a week and focus on cooperation, risk-taking, and confidence building. When the kids are engaged in theater, Karen says, they know they can speak up on life’s broader stage, as well.
“I want kids to be strong,” says Karen. “Too often we coddle them and make them think they can’t do something without our help.”
Janice has a front-row seat – literally and figuratively – to see the impact the club has made at Rock Lake.
“The day after a play, all of a sudden, the kids who were quiet and awkward shine on campus,” she says. “Any self-esteem issues they had are gone, right out the window.”
The club’s next production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will be showcased at Rock Lake on Thursday, May 23. For tickets call 407-230-6121.
After the school day ends – and well after their own time in the classroom has come to a close – Karen, Etty, and Diane continue to give back to their students. From strategy on the chessboard to confidence on the big stage, the kids are soaking it all up and having plenty of fun along the way.
Take Two at Teague
For longtime dean Michael Bundy, his 32-year tenure at Teague Middle School just wasn’t long enough.
Though Michael Bundy retired from Teague Middle School last August after more than three decades, it’s like he never left – probably because he’s still there. The former dean of students has been involved with Teague’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) chapter for years, and Michael wasn’t about to let retirement bring his service to a close. He now leads the Teague FCA as a volunteer.
“I wanted to do something to help the community,” Michael says.
Once a week, Teague’s FCA members gather before school to talk, play sports, have some breakfast, and get positive inspiration no matter what religion they practice.
For the 100-or-so FCA participants at Teague, a key component of the group is leadership.
“We try and get them to run it,” says Michael. “We step back a little bit so they can talk in front of the group and help with planning, as opposed to adults running the show.”
The kids have a great mentor in their former dean.
Chadwick Long, Teague’s behavior support specialist, says Michael’s commitment to the FCA “shows the quality of the person by still donating time to children.”
But Michael says the benefits come back to him, as well. “It’s a blessing for me to be able to do it.”
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