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Just Can’t Leave the Classroom

Pennsylvania educator Richard Erickson originally planned to joined the Peace Corps right after college, but he was offered a job in the school system and his career began. He started as a middle-school social studies teacher and moved up to Marple Newtown High School, where he taught for 22 more years.

Erickson retired eight years ago, concluding a 38-year career, but he just can’t seem to leave the classroom. Upon “retiring,” he started teaching at West Chester University.

“I just wasn’t ready to retire,” Erickson said, “I was still enjoying teaching.”

The only thing that rivals his passion for teaching is his passion for travel. In the 1980s, a fellow teacher handed him a Fulbright application, and before he knew it he was off to China as a Fulbright teacher. Later, he took some of his students to China. 

And the Peace Corps? He finally got around to it, and was assigned to Southwestern China where he and his wife taught together.

Now he teaches at a Pennsylvania prison, as part of a theology program that trains prisoners to work in churches.

 Erickson is also helping shape the next generation of teachers. While he once taught social studies at the junior high and high school levels, he now teaches social studies education to student teachers as an adjunct professor.

So even though he’s been retired for eight years, it doesn’t look as if Erickson will ever leave the classroom. “I still have the urge to teach,” he said. 

—Emma Chadband


Retired and Rebuilding 

Herb Smith, a retired educator from New Jersey, watched dozens of children bring cupcakes to class for their birthdays over the years. But he’ll never forget a little boy who brought cupcakes with little American flags on the top.

“Thank you! Happy birthday,” Smith said. “It’s not my birthday,” the little boy replied. “I just became an American citizen.”

It’s students like these that made Smith excited to go to work every morning. He’s been retired for 26 years now, but he stays active in the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). In fact, he met his wife, Edie, through the NJEA, and they’ve been married for 18 years.

Besides keeping busy with union work, Smith and his wife are rebuilding a historical house together in Maine, a project Smith was at first very skeptical about.

Originally built in the 1800s, the house had seen dozens of owners, and it showed. It even served as a commune in the 1970s.

Smith said fixing the house has been quite an experience, and he and his wife are now writing a book together about their project. Smith said the book will be about their journey to bring a historical home back to life.

Smith and his wife continue to follow education politics in the news and to volunteer, but their favorite pastime is probably popping open a bottle of wine and cracking apart some lobster tails on their newly restored porch.

—Emma Chadband


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