The Benton School District honored its retiring employees Monday with a reception and celebration of their accomplishments.
“We hate to see people leave us,” said Superintendent Dr. Mike Skelton. “But, we are also excited about the fact that they are going to move on to retirement and the next chapter of their lives and whatever that may entail.”
Jean Curtis is retiring after educating hundreds of students at Ringgold Elementary School.
“She is going to be deeply missed,” said Ringgold Principal Beverly Mayfield. “She has been a fixture at Ringgold for about 26 years. She has been in education for about 34 and of those 26 happened at Ringgold.”
Curtis has taught a wide variety of classes, including kindergarten, along with second and third grade. She has also served as the assistant softball coach at Benton High School.
“I know that there have been lots of memories made throughout the course of her career,” Mayfield said. “When her kiddos walk into her class and then they walk out, they are not the same student. She has filled them with knowledge and enrichment.”
Curtis plans to spend her retirement doing what she loves, including camping, visiting the beach and fishing.
“Thank you, Ms. Curtis, for all that you have done of us and for our kiddos,” Mayfield said.
Those retiring from Howard Perrin Elementary include paraprofessional Mary High, custodian Marilyn Pertius, secretary Skylar Redmann and elementary teacher Mary Grace Kinder. Redmann retired at the end of the fall semester.
Howard Perrin Assistant Principal Kelly Keene said that Kinder chose education because she loves to watch children learn and grow, plus the fact that first-graders are hilarious.
“I have wonderful memories of my co-workers through the years,” Kinder said. “They are my very best friends ... Howard Perrin is my home.”
Keene added that they would miss Kinder’s smile and her light heartedness.
Pertius is retiring after 12 years with the district, including 11 at Howard Perrin. She plans to travel after retirement and continue with her sewing and quilting hobbies.
Her most memorable event in her time with the district came after she lost her home to a fire. The schools came together to provide her with food, cards, money and “lots of prayers.”
“Miss Marilyn, thank you for everything that you have done,” Keene said.
High is retiring after working as a paraprofessional at Howard Perrin for 16 years. She previously worked as a paraprofessional at Caldwell Elementary.
Keene said that High did not choose education, but that it chose her.
“She loves kids and really enjoyed bonding with her students once her kids didn’t need her as much,” Keene said. “We appreciate Miss High and the work that she’s done at Howard Perrin.”
Robin Elliot will be retiring from Benton Middle School after 35 years in education. Before BMS, Elliott taught at Howard Perrin for 33 years.
Elliot told Keene her most memorable moment involved a kindergarten student named Owen.
“(Elliott) bent over a table to help someone and he smacked her on the bottom,” Keene said. “She was startled and asked him why he did that and he said ‘that’s what my dad did to my mom because he loved her so much. I assume that means Owen loved Ms. Elliot quite a bit.”
Keene went on to thank Elliott for all her years of service to both schools.
Alisa Goodwin is retiring from BMS with plans to spend more time with her family.
“We appreciate all the stuff she did when she came over,” said Principal Steve Quinn. “Her most important job was growing up all those young, special education teachers I had and that was quite a job. We definitely appreciated her experience and all the things that she did ... we hope you enjoy every minute of (retirement).”
Four are retiring from Benton Junior High School, including Suzy Carter, Lisa Kordsmeier, Roberta ‘Robby’ Wright and Laura McGhee. Wright retired at the end of the fall semester.
Carter is retiring after teaching eighth- and ninth-grade history for 26 years.
“She has done anything you will ask of her,” said Principal Chad Pitts.
Pitts also said that Carter always wanted to help kids who were struggling in the subject.
McGhee has worked in education for 32 years with 25 at Benton as a counselor.
“My favorite thing about Laura is probably her sense of humor,” Pitts said. “If you’ve seen the dress-up days you know what I’m talking about.”
McGhee plans to spend her retirement with her grandchildren.
“Enjoy your retirement,” Pitts added.
Benton High School has two retirees — business teacher Paula Tharp and counselor Karen Stout.
“This will be tough for us to lose these two,” said Principal Curt Barger. “Both of them are very special to the high school and very special to me. These are solid educators that we are losing and good friends of mine.
Tharp is retiring after 36 years in education, 20 of which were with the Benton School District.
“She is planning on traveling a lot with her husband after retirement,” Barger said. “I know how excited she is ... I know she will have a great time."
Barger added that Tharp chose education because she had a lot of great role models and she loves seeing her students be successful. He also said that she has been an inspiration for kids to become teachers themselves
“She has done such a good job,” Barger said. “I can’t think of a better person to teach our kids, our youth that we hope to get someday and put them in our open positions ... we will miss you.”
Stout was a counselor at Benton Junior High when Barger first began working there as the principal six years ago.
“We had a lot of fun and got to know each other very well,” Barger said. “For some reason, she was crazy enough to go to the high school when I went to the high school, too. It’s been incredible being with her.”
Stout has been with the district for 25 year and has worked with every grade level in her role as a teacher and counselor.
According to Barger, Stout chose a career in education because she came from a family of educators and that her most memorable moment was seeing a student of hers with spina bifida grow up and become a high school graduate.
“She never loses her cool and always has a sense of humor at heart,” Barger said. “She’s just one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever seen in my life ... she loves kids. Period. Your role as a counselor, perfect, and I thank you for putting up with me for six years.”
Other retirees include SPED Secretary Evie Goldman and Chief Financial Officer Laura Baber.
Goldman has served the district for 11 years in the central office.
Assistant Superintendent Karla Neathery said the thing that makes Goldman stand out to her is that she is always happy and is known for her dancing and singing.
“She just always made the workplace a fun place to be,” Neathery said. “We will miss you.”
Goldman plans to spend her retirement with loved ones, as well as traveling and volunteering.
“We thank you very much for everything that you have done for our district and for your 11 years of service,” Neathery said. “We wish you well. Congratulations.”
Baber has been in education for 32 years and has served as CFO for the last four.
“We are going to miss her,” Skelton said. “I’m going to miss her especially, because if things are not right with the money, you know what happens from there ... she’s has kept me in line and done an amazing job the four years she has served as chief financial officer.
Baber began her career as a kindergarten and first-grade teacher before moving to the administration side of education in roles as assistant principal and as a Title 1 facilitator. She also served as principal of Angie Grant Elementary for seven years before becoming the CFO.
“She plans to keep her new grand baby, which is on the way,” Skelton said.
In addition to spending time with family, Baber also plans to enjoy fishing and other hobbies.
“I appreciate Ms. Baber, not only from a professional standpoint, but also from a personal standpoint,” Skelton said. “I could not have done my job as superintendent without that relationship. I appreciate you more than you will ever know. Thank you for what you’ve meant to me personally, but also for our school district and our students.”
Skelton closed the remarks by thanking all the honorees for their dedication and saying that he and the district looked forward to hearing about the next chapters in their lives.