Archive for Thursday, January 15, 2004

An opportunity

Teacher looking for new challenges in retirement

January 15, 2004

As a little girl, if Sarah Kettler and her friends were playing school, Kettler always wanted to be the teacher.

As she grew older, her desire to teach didn't diminish. In fact, she started teaching in Pittsburg, Kan., in 1972. And three years later, she and her husband moved to Tonganoxie and she began teaching second-graders.

Last week, the 53-year-old Kettler began her final semester at Tonganoxie Elementary School, taking advantage of the so-called 85 and out option. If a school district staff member's age and years of service equal 85 or more, they are eligible for early retirement.

"I hope to do something else," said Kettler, who holds both bachelor's and master's degrees in education. "I would like maybe to work at a children's bookstore. I wouldn't mind being a receptionist -- part time. I would like to try something different. I've only taught."

She and her husband, Hubert, who's known as Hubey, also plan to travel.

Kettler's parents live and Fort Scott, and she plans to travel there more often. The Kettlers, who have been married 32 years, take an annual trip to Las Vegas.

Kettler would enjoy another cruise, and she'd love to see the fall foliage in New England.

One daughter, Lara, 26, a teacher, lives in Texas, and her other daughter, Jill, 23, lives in Olathe. And Lara will be given many of the teaching materials Kettler has devised during the years.

But until the conclusion of the school year, Sarah Kettler's focus will firmly remain on her own students.

"I'm really not thinking about retirement," Kettler said.

She's still excited about her job, and she truly enjoys her class this year.

"They're a really good group," she said. "They're a fun group. They love to sing. They love the poems that we do. They really get into everything. I feel very fortunate to be going out on such a positive note. And I like the idea of leaving when I still love it."

So it will be hard for Kettler -- once she actually starts thinking about retirement -- to envision her daily life without those little children and without her co-workers.

"We are really a tight group of people," she said about staffers at TES.

"I love the people I work with. We're lucky in a lot of ways because our school provides supplies. We are provided for really well with supplies and materials we need to help the kids. There's a good support system. I will really miss the people I work with because they are so kind and caring with each other and with the kids."

And while she so enjoys the children and her co-workers, she certainly won't miss the consistent worry that goes with teaching.

"You're always thinking about it," she said. "I think a little freedom will be nice."

But it's doubtful Kettler will allow herself much freedom. She already volunteers at the Tonganoxie Nursing Center, polishing fingernails of residents. During summers, she works one day at the local thrift shop. She already is quite a gardener who tends flowers and vegetables. She loves to read -- mysteries, in particular.

And so when people ask Kettler, What will you do with all of your free time, the answer is simple.

"I don't expect to have free time," she said.

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