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A Fresh Start

Retired teacher JoAnn Kenner never planned on becoming a “health nut,” but she wanted to do something good for her body. “I was stressed out over the holidays, so I tried a detox diet that required two days of eating only raw foods,” Kenner said.

“I enjoyed the food and I felt so good afterward,” she says. Kenner then signed up for raw food classes, where she learned how to prepare meals without cooking, which often destroys the valuable enzymes that our bodies need. “It’s harder the older you get to go without those enzymes,” she says. “It’s like your body needs all your energy to digest that food.” Kenner, who taught fifth-grade language arts, was astounded by the health benefits of a raw food diet. In addition to the nutritional gains, the diet has also been instrumental in helping her lose weight—she reports shedding 25 pounds effortlessly thanks to eating raw foods.

After being certified in Raw Culinary Chef Training in 2009, Kenner took additional steps. First, she revamped her kitchen by tossing her pots and pans—even the microwave. She replaced those items with a high speed blender, a food processor, and a mandoline to prepare vegetables. Kenner’s favorite raw dishes include a walnut pâté stuffed into marinated mushrooms, as well as a fresh fruit sorbet. She looks forward to creating new raw meals. “It’s become a passion,” she says. While Kenner enjoys hosting raw food potluck parties for her friends, she admits that she is open to all types of food, whether it’s raw or cooked. “I’m a flexitarian,” she says. In the future, Kenner, who is vice chair of the Illinois Education Association-Retired, would like to teach her cooking skills to other people as a trainer or coach.
—Jazzy Wright


Big Fun in Small Trains

A world of new experiences opened to Letha McCoy after retirement—a trip to the Grand Canyon, helicopter rides, museum stops, shopping excursions, even a rafting voyage down the Colorado River. And it was all made possible by her husband Gary’s new hobby: “live steam,” or building, riding, and displaying reduced-scale steam engines.

McCoy, who taught first grade for 30 years in Burleson, Texas, doesn’t build or conduct the trains, but she assists with tasks like painting and loves to ride along in the passenger cars.

“I have learned a great deal about trains in the past 10 years. I’m much more knowledgeable,” McCoy says.

McCoy’s interest in trains has even inspired her to take part in other train-related activities. A recent trip by the Texas Retired Teachers Association president and other TRTA members to Washington, D.C., for an NEA convention included a stop in Baltimore to visit the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, for example.

But travel isn’t anything new to McCoy. She and her husband have traveled as far as Kansas and Arizona for train meets where groups of as many as 250 enthusiasts gather in the spring and fall to show off their trains and ride them on the miles-long tracks. Train meets outside of Texas are often expanded into full-fledged vacations, the most recent being a trip last year from a meet in Phoenix, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon.

At home, McCoy and her husband are members of Houston Area Live Steamers, Southwestern Live Steamers, and Maricopa Live Steamers, where they build relationships with others who share a love for their hobby and participate in activities like offering “live steam” rides to the general public free of charge.

“To see the children’s smiles is something pretty special.”
—Erica Addison



Member Profile

R. Ray Hart

I have been teaching fourth and fifth grade in classrooms around the country for over 40 years. I taught in Idaho and Washington State before retiring in 1992. I then moved to Maui, Hawaii, and began a second teaching career that lasted 12 years. I am president of the Hawaii Education Association-Retired, Maui Council.

How do you spend your time in retirement?
I teach classes on the stock market as a volunteer educator in elementary, middle, and high schools. I have also given workshops to teachers about economics and investing. I spend a lot of my free time making sure the children come first. I serve on the local school board, and as the treasurer of a nonprofit board that is working to establish a charter school. I am also vice chair of a nonprofit group that helps the homeless and the homebound. It comes with being a teacher—once you’re a helper, you’re a helper for life.

Nevada Banks Gates

I taught science, health, and physical education for 39 years in Forrest City, Arkansas. I was a state representative to the NEA Board of Directors for six years, and I’m secretary of Arkansas Education Association-Retired.

How do you spend your time in retirement?
After I retired I moved from Arkansas to Memphis, Tennessee, but I do not let the distance stop me from staying active with NEA—I commute over 150 miles to Arkansas to attend AEA-Retired meetings, where I am on the political action committee. When I’m not lobbying for education reform, I spend time raising money for breast cancer research. I have participated in the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure, and I volunteer with other cancer survivors like myself. Being a retired educator does not mean you go home and sit down, it means it is time for you to come alive in another area.

Brenda Pierce

I taught seventh- and eighth-grade science in Phoenix public schools. I also worked briefly in elementary schools, teaching for a grand total of 27 years. I am a representative on the at-large board of the Arizona Association-Retired.

What’s best about retirement?
I love that I can do what I want when I want to. I have free time to go back into the classroom and substitute teach. I am also able to work part-time as a ticket-taker and usher supervisor for the Phoenix Suns basketball team and the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. I like to interact with the guests, watch the sports, and view concerts held in the arenas. Some of my former students are now my employees. When I am not working, I help my Association recruit new Retired members and collect items to donate to local homeless shelters.


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