The Noblest Profession: Residents Reflect on Their Lives as Teachers
Teachers are so much more than the people who stand in front of classrooms. They help young minds discover and understand the world. They encourage young hearts to find their passions. They offer a caring ear and a soft shoulder to students and families during hard times.
Holiday Retirement communities are chock full of former educators who played all these parts and more. As people around the country celebrate National Teacher Day this month, we’re honoring a couple of our residents who dedicated their lives to education.
For Jean Finnegan, a resident at Holiday Retirement’s Bluebird Estates in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, teaching was first a choice of function rather than passion. Shortly after Jean married her husband, Bill, in 1952, they agreed she would take a teaching job to help support their new family. At the time, Bill was pursuing his dream of earning a master’s degree in education, and his fellowship salary would not cover all the household expenses.
Jean’s first job was in New Salem, Massachusetts, and she remembers her friends’ surprise when she told them about it.
“The job was teaching grades four and five. My friends back at college were shocked that I'd have two grades in one room,” Jean said.
But she kept a cool head about it all. She was well-experienced with multigrade classrooms, having attended a school with combined grades when she was a kid. “It turned out to be quite pleasant and very doable. [The school I taught at] was probably one of the last two-room schoolhouses in use in Massachusetts,” Jean said.
One reason her job was so enjoyable was that her students and their families were so kind, Jean said. During her first year of teaching, Jean and Bill were expecting their first child. Though she never mentioned it to them, her students must have sensed something was happening. Students were always helping to move chairs or open windows for Jean. They even threw her a surprise baby shower at her house!
That one year of teaching kicked off a career that spanned 31 years. Reflecting on her time as a teacher, Jean said, “I think that I was very fortunate to have chosen a career doing something that I truly enjoy.”
Pat Holmblad, who lives at Holiday Retirement's Simi Hills in Simi Valley, California, feels the same about teaching. “I am a teacher by vocation and avocation,” she said.
Pat was a teacher for more than 40 years in California, working with children big and small. According to Pat, teaching was not always an easy job, and she’s sure any educator would agree, but she loved her job and wouldn’t have changed it one bit.
Some of her favorite moments were when kids were discovering the amazing world around them, like when her kindergartners watched baby chicks hatch from eggs in her classroom or when her sixth-graders went to an outdoor education camp. But, the moments weren’t always happy. There were times such as when she had to discipline a fourth-grader, one of those troublemakers who always seemed to be up to mischief (“He’s an attorney now,” Pat said). There were also the moments she spent crying with the parents of a boy who did not survive an illness but attended class when he was able.
Her love for helping didn’t stop at children. Pat helped prepare future teachers as a supervising instructor and mentor for new teachers in their first two years of the profession. And as a resident at Simi Hills, she even helped an employee study for her citizenship test. She passed!
For her hard work and dedication, Pat was honored by the Los Angeles City Council. True to the giving nature of a teacher, Pat summed up her experience teaching by saying, “I’m proud to say I’m a teacher. Teaching has many challenges and rewards, and I hope I’ve made a difference in some person’s life.”
Happy Teachers Day to Jean, Pat and all the former teachers at Holiday Retirement!
Pictured above is Jean Finnegan of Bluebird Estates.
We love celebrating our residents’ professional achievements and we welcome the chance to share your story soon. If you or a loved one are considering senior living, visit a community near you or get in touch with us to learn more!